Pratt & Whitney has received a contract from the F-35 Joint Program Office to carry out the F135 modernisation study and operational assessment.

The assessment is expected to determine the requirements for the propulsion system growth for Block 4.2 F-35 aircraft and later models.

As per the $1.5m contract, the study will be completed in March.

Pratt & Whitney Military Engines president Matthew Bromberg said: “This award is a significant milestone for the programme and the warfighter, as we look to ensure the F135 propulsion system continues to provide the foundation for all air vehicle capability requirements over the full lifecycle of the F-35.

“As we look to the future, growth in aircraft capability must be met with matched propulsion modernization. Fortunately, the F135 has ample design margin to support agile and affordable upgrades that will enable all F-35 operators to keep pace with evolving threat environments.”

The company will carry out the assessment for the F135 engine enhancements that are needed for the weapon system capability requirements of the future for all the F-35 variants.

The evaluation will focus on enhancements to boost powered lift thrust, the up and away thrust, power and thermal management capacity and fuel burn reduction.

In a statement, Pratt & Whitney said: “Designed with the knowledge that operational environments will evolve and threats will advance, the F135 is postured to meet future F-35 capability requirements.”

“Its modular design and advanced digital architecture allow for the agile development and spiral insertion of both hardware and software upgrades.”

The GATORWORKS organization of Pratt & Whitney will complete the conceptual design and analysis.

In January, the Pentagon’s auditors initiated a review of United Technologies’ unit Pratt & Whitney’s $66bn F-35 Engine Program in order to determine why the company is failing to gain more savings from subcontractors on its share of the US weapons programme.