Pratt & Whitney leaders were on hand to meet face-to-face with key Air Force customers, industry partners, and news media during the Air Force Association's 2013 Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition held this week in National Harbor, Md.
The three-day, 55-session conference covers various topics pertaining to the U.S. Air Force, with attendees getting an up close opportunity to hear from and interact with the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Mark Welsh III, and many other senior Air Force and Department of Defense leaders.
Attending this conference is a "must-do" every year, according to Bennett Croswell, president, Pratt & Whitney Military Engines.
"We enjoy our relationships with our customers, and events like this allow us to spend additional time with them to better understand their priorities and their concerns," said Croswell. "We intend to provide the Air Force and all of our customers the best possible products and services so that they can execute the mission. Events like AFA also give us a forum for communicating to our customers, and even the media, about how we are meeting our commitments in providing affordable readiness for the warfighter."
During his remarks, Gen. Welsh discussed airpower and the service's warfighting capabilities across its core missions, and he also addressed the issue of readiness for combat and mobility air forces which has been difficult to manage due to current budget constraints. "We have to minimize the impact where we can - it's not going to be good," he said.
Welsh added that the force must resume key activities that have impacted the overall force, such as scaled-back exercises and attendance for weapons schools, where Airmen earn their "PhDs" as warfighters.
Welsh outlined several key recapitalization priorities for the force, including the KC-46 tanker, the F-35 Lightning II and the long range-strike bomber. Each of these weapon systems programs are critical in engaging with a determined, well-armed, well-trained opponent, he explained.
Pratt & Whitney will deliver the first engines for the KC-46A tanker before the end of the year, and the company has delivered 107 production F135 engines to date for the F-35 program.
Also during the conference, Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, program executive officer for the F-35 Lightning II, took to the podium to address the progress he's seen since assuming oversight of the program just over a year ago, citing reduced costs and increasing international partner confidence in the F-35 program.
Bogdan expressed confidence that Pratt & Whitney was committed to driving down the cost of the engine as the government and industry team prepare for the increased production ramp, which is set to accelerate in 2016.
Bogdan also highlighted the creation of a "cost war room" created between Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney, and the Joint Program Office, which brings together in one place cost analysts and experts focused on finding additional cost-savings in maintenance, reliability and maintainability (R&M), and the supply chain. The cost war room has been established at the Lockheed Martin Fighter Demonstration Center in Crystal City, Va.
"We expressed to Gen. Bogdan, as well as to defense reporters, that we remain committed to continue to drive down the cost of the F135 engine," said Croswell. "Pratt & Whitney has cut the cost of the engine by more than 40 percent already, and we expect to keep this momentum going forward. We will submit our proposal for the seventh and eighth lot of engines by the end of the month, and we hope to finalize negotiations with the JPO at the beginning of the year."
During Gen. Bogdan's remarks at the conference, he also pointed to the announcement from the Netherlands government that the F-35 has been selected as a replacement for the country's F-16 fleet as further evidence of progress and international confidence in the program.
"We are delighted that the Netherlands has reaffirmed their commitment to the F-35 program for the future of the Dutch Armed Services," agreed Croswell. "There is a longstanding partnership that started more than 30 years ago between Pratt & Whitney and the Netherlands, and today's decision milestone is a continuation of that partnership."
The annual Air Force Association conference concludes today.