Pentagon says no halt in F-35 contract talks with Lockheed, Pratt

RAF FAIRFORD, England, July 10 Thu Jul 10, 2014 7:28am EDT

RAF FAIRFORD, England, July 10 (Reuters) - The Pentagon's F-35 program office on Thursday reversed an earlier statement and said it was continuing contract talks with Lockheed Martin Corp and engine maker Pratt & Whitney, despite an engine fire that has grounded the F-35 fighter jet fleet.

"Contract negotiations between the F-35 Joint Program Office and prime contractors Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney continue in spite of the engine mishap at Eglin Air Force Base," spokesman Joe DellaVedova said in a statement.

He said information derived from the accident investigation would inform any actions needed to address future modifications that may be required, but did not elaborate.

"These new findings should not significantly delay program progress," DellaVedova said.

An official with the F-35 program earlier this week told Reuters the engine fire on June 23 had resulted in a pause in U.S. negotiations with Lockheed and Pratt, a unit of United Technologies Corp, for the next batches of jets and engines.

Bennett Croswell, president of Pratt & Whitney's military engines business, told reporters on Thursday the company was continuing to work with the government on a contract for engines to power the seventh and eighth batch of jets.

He said he hoped to reach an agreement on the engines "very soon," but gave no specific date.

Lockheed's previous contracts with the Pentagon call for a 50-50 split of costs with the government, but the government carries a larger share of the cost in its contracts with Pratt. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Mark Potter)

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