FORT WORTH, Texas, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Engine maker Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp, said on Friday that it expected to sign a partial agreement before the end of the year to fund operations and maintenance of the next batch of engines it is building for the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jet.
Clifford Stone, director of F135 programs for Pratt, told Reuters at a ceremony at Lockheed's headquarters that he expected to wrap up negotiations on the "sustainment" of the F135 engines that power the new fighter jet in coming weeks. That would be followed by a deal for the production of the new engines in the first half of 2014, Stone said.
Pratt is the sole supplier of F135 engines for all three variants of the F-35 fighter jet.
Stone said the company and the Pentagon decided to decouple the production and sustainment parts of the negotiations about the seventh and eighth batches of engines to ensure the continued ability of Pratt employees to work on engines after the start of the new year.
Bennett Croswell, president of Pratt's military engines business, told Reuters in September that the company expected to drive down the cost of the F135 engines by at least 2.5 percent, and perhaps more, in the next two contracts.
Croswell said Pratt expected to match or beat the 2.5 percent reduction that it achieved on 32 of the 38 engines in a sixth production contract for $1 billion that it negotiated with the Pentagon in August.
There are about 40 engines in each of the next two production lots, according to the company.