It's all over but the crying... and the writedowns and recriminations.
Over the weekend, General Electric
Explaining the program's closure, GE blamed "continued uncertainty in the development and production schedules for the JSF Program." Don't believe it. The truth of the matter is that Congress has been trying to kill off the F-136 program for five years now, despite being stymied at every turn by legislators from the states in which GE was hoping to build the engine. Ultimately, the company had to offer to foot the bill for developing the engine itself, eating a potential $100 million a year in development costs in hopes of eventually twisting enough legislative arms to win itself a deadhead's chair on the F-35 program.
Now it's that hope that's dead -- and that's a shame.
Beggars can't be winners
It's a shame not because GE won't win a spot on the F-35 -- which already has a perfectly good engine, and one that doesn't need billions of dollars more to develop -- but because the F-136 was so close to completion that it could have worked on other planes. For all the talk that the F-35 is the nation's "last manned fighter jet," Northrop Grumman
Heck, over in Japan, there's a $4 billion dogfight brewing right now over the right to replace that country's fleet of F-2 fighter jets with new offerings from Boeing, Lockheed, or Eurofighter. If GE had managed to get its F-136 done on time -- and if the engine would have been as good as its backers have argued it is -- then offering it as part of a Japanese defense package might have helped swing the competition in America's favor.
Instead, Lockheed must now try to sell Japan on the attractions of the F-35 with only one engine-offering to support its bid. And if Lockheed wins, the spoils will go to only one engine-making victor: United Technologies.
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Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own (or short) shares of any company named above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.