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Jet-engine maker Pratt & Whitney accuses titanium supplier of fraud

By Lewis Krauskopf

(Reuters) - United Technologies Corp unit Pratt & Whitney has sued a titanium supplier for fraud, after questions over the material led Pratt to briefly suspend delivery of its engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Pratt said that A&P Alloys Inc, in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, "intentionally submitted certifications falsely representing the pedigree and quality of its material," according to court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts on Friday.

In the lawsuit, Pratt accuses A&P of fraud and breach of contract. An attorney for A&P Alloys said the company had not yet been served with the complaint.

Last Friday, Pratt confirmed it had briefly suspended delivery of the strike fighter engine after it discovered conflicting documentation in late May that raised questions about the origin of the titanium.

Representatives of Pratt and the F-35 program office both said last week the material did not pose a risk to flight safety.

In the lawsuit, Pratt said one of its parts suppliers, Lewis Machine LLC, ordered metal stock from A&P Alloys.

Pratt is suing for damages and attorneys fees arising from fraudulent misrepresentations about the metals and attempts to impede Pratt's efforts to uncover the alleged misconduct, according to the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, A&P's owner denied representatives from Pratt and Lewis access to A&P's headquarters when they were seeking documents and refused to turn over requested records.

Pratt put its costs at more than $1 million thus far, the lawsuit said.

Pratt said last week it had reported its concerns at the time to the U.S. Pentagon's Defense Criminal Investigation Services unit, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The joint strike fighter is the Pentagon's costliest weapons program. Engine deliveries for the F-35 program have been suspended since a separate June 23 incident, in which the engine on an Air Force training jet broke apart and caught fire just before takeoff from Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

(Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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