Five companies–General Electric [GE], Raytheon Technologies‘ Pratt & Whitney [RTX], Boeing [BA], Lockheed Martin [LMT], and Northrop Grumman [NOC]–are receiving contracts under an umbrella, $975 million effort for the prototype phase of the Next Generation Adaptive Propulsion (NGAP) program.

The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio may award up to $975 million over the next decade “for technology maturation and risk reduction activities through design, analysis, rig testing, prototype engine testing, and weapon system integration,” DoD said in an Aug. 19 contract announcement.

“The contract is for the execution of the prototype phase of the Next Generation Adaptive Propulsion program and is focused on delivering capability enabling propulsion systems for future air dominance platforms and digitally transforming the propulsion industrial base,” DoD said. “Work will be performed in Palmdale, California, and is expected to be complete by July 11, 2032.

The Air Force is pursuing NGAP and the Advanced Engine Transition Program (AETP) for the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program.

Officials in the program for the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter said that the latter will need improved engine features after DoD fields the third increment of Block 4, which is to include dozens of new features, including the ability to carry 16 new weapons.

The Air Force has said that its focus for AETP has been on the NGAD program, not the F-35A, due to what the service has said are significant costs for retrofitting AETP engines on the F-35A.

In fiscal 2018, the Air Force exercised options in the AETP contract for the NGAP risk reduction effort for NGAD engine components.

In fiscal 2023, the Air Force requested nearly $354 million for advanced engine development, including $286 million for AETP and nearly $68 million for NGAP. Senate defense authorizers and appropriators agreed to the Air Force request. House defense authorizers recommended boosting AETP by $150 million in fiscal 2023, while House appropriators said that they advised funding the Air Force’s nearly $354 million advanced engine development request but, “at the Air Force’s request,” decreasing AETP funding to $133 million and increasing NGAP to $220 million.

Last month, nine groups, including the Taxpayers Protection Alliance and the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), suggested that AETP investments are wasteful (Defense Daily, July 13).

“We, the undersigned organizations representing taxpayers across the nation, urge you to proceed with extreme caution when considering proposals to spend more money on the F-35 engine,” according to the groups’ July 12 letter to Congress. “The F-35 program as a whole has already cost American taxpayers an exorbitant amount. It is vital that time and care be taken before making decisions that could add considerably to the bill.”

Other letter signatories included the National Taxpayers Union,  Americans for Tax Reform, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Progressive Democrats of America, the Quincy Institute, Women’s Action for New Directions, and the 60 Plus Association.

Pratt & Whitney builds the F135 engine for the three variants of the F-35.