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WASHINGTON (AFP) - A congressional watchdog agency criticized the Pentagon for abandoning development an alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter without studying the impact on costs or benefits.
The Pentagon cut the 2.4 billion dollar program from its 2007 military budget request in February in a major blow to General Electric and Rolls Royce, which are developing the second engine.
The JSF is expected to be the biggest US fighter program ever. The Defense Department plans to buy 2,400 of the stealthy multi-role fighters and international sales could account for another 2,000 to 3,500 aircraft.
The Pentagon opted in 1996 to have manufacturers develop two competing engines to drive down costs and improve performance. It has since invested 1.2 billion dollars in the alternate engine.
It awarded General Electric and Rolls Royce a 2.4 billion dollar contract to develop and demonstrate the second engine in 2005, only to propose scrapping it two years later.
That would leaves Pratt and Whitney as the sole maker of JSF engines.
The move reportedly angered Britain, which has invested two billion dollars in the JSF program and plans to buy 150 of the fighters worth 8.6 billion dollars.