F-35 Funds Withheld From Pratt & Whitney Over Quality

The Pentagon is withholding funds from United Technologies Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney unit because of delays in delivering engines for the F-35 due to quality flaws and technical issues, the fighter program’s chief said.

“They’ve stayed steady” in the last two years, Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, head of the F-35 program office, said of the flaws. “They haven’t gotten any better, but they haven’t gotten any worse.”

Pratt & Whitney is the sole provider of engines for the $391.2 billion F-35 project, the Defense Department’s costliest weapons program. The company has delivered 134 engines and 46 lift fans for the propulsion system on the F-35B, the short-takeoff and vertical landing version to be used by the Marine Corps.

Many of the flaws have been discovered as the engines are being delivered to the military.

“Right at the end, which is not a good place to find things,” Bogdan told reporters after testifying today to the House Armed Services Committee.

Bogdan said he didn’t have a figure readily available for how much money is being withheld from Pratt & Whitney. Lockheed Martin Corp. is the prime contractor on the F-35.

Making Corrections

Matthew Bates, a spokesman for the unit of Hartford, Connecticut-based United Technologies, said in an e-mailed statement that funding isn’t being withheld “due to late engine deliveries,” and that “any withholds are associated with manufacturing non-conformances of a small number of parts, none of which impact the performance or operation of the engine.”

“We are also correcting a number of specification non-compliances, such as parts that do not meet full life and withholds associated with these issues are being corrected,” Bates said. He said these are “relatively short-term actions.”

Separately, Bates said, the Defense Contract Management Agency continues to withhold 5 percent of billings because of flaws in Pratt & Whitney’s internal business system for tracking costs and schedules.

Bogdan said in a statement to the House panel that the latest production lot of engines is “currently slightly ahead of contract delivery dates. However, far too often engine deliveries are interrupted by technical issues and manufacturing quality escapes” resulting from deficiencies.

Although the delays are forcing the company to miss contractual milestones, it has never stopped Pratt & Whitney from delivering an engine “by the time we needed it to put into an airplane,” Bogdan said.

The engine is assembled by Pratt & Whitney from components made by subcontractors, he said.

“We withhold money,” Bogdan said. “Sometimes we permanently withhold, which means they never get it back, and other times we withhold for contract delay or simply because there is a quality escape.”

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