The U.S. Army continues every day to rely on its rotorcraft fleet which includes main staples like the Apache, Black Hawk and Chinook.
However, modernization efforts continue by the branch under its Future Vertica Lift (FVL) initiative, designed to “rapidly develop new aircraft to achieve overmatch,” according to the Army.
GE Aviation has made significant progress over the last year in support FVL while minimizing delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We remain committed to meet the schedule in support of the U.S. Army’s FVL modernization plan while also providing the best products for today’s warfighter,” said Harry Nahatis, VP and General Manager of GE Aviation’s Rotorcraft and Turboprops Programs.
GE Aviation has more than 6,000 engines in service on the U.S. Army’s fleet of rotorcraft and is well-positioned to meet the branch’s call for maximum power and efficiency at an affordable cost for decades to come. This is part of GE’s unique portfolio of turboshaft engines which shares military and commercial technologies across the product lines.
Here’s a current overview at GE Aviation’s progress:
In cooperation with the U.S. Army, GE Aviation successfully completed the Critical Design Review (CDR) in July for the T901-GE-900.
In 2019, the U.S. Army selected GE Aviation’s T901 engine for the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase of the Improved Turbine Engine (ITE) program to re-engine its Boeing AH-64 Apache and Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk fleet. The Army has also selected the 3,000-shp engine for the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program.
CDR is considered a significant EMD milestone. Engine Control System Components (ECSC) and Software CDRs, as well as numerous Technical Interchange Meetings (TIMs) were conducted prior to the week-long Engine Systems CDRs.
Completion of CDR allows GE Aviation to move ahead to its next critical milestone, First Engine To Test (FETT) for the XT901. FETT is scheduled to occur in 4QFY21.
GE Aviation remains committed to the Army’s goal of accelerating the testing and delivery of the engine. A team of approximately 250 employees in Lynn, Massachusetts, and Cincinnati, Ohio, continue executing on the Engineering Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase of the T901 program.
“We are extremely happy with the teamwork demonstrated by GE T901 and US Army ITE teams in reaching this key program milestone,” said GE T901 Program Director Tom Champion. “We have begun rig testing of T901 product configuration components and look forward to full engine testing next year.”
In January, GE Aviation and the Army successfully completed a T901 fit check of a Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk and a Boeing AH-64E Apache. According to Rich Crabtree, a member of the Army’s ITE AH-64E Integration team, the engine “fits like a glove… just like the T700.”
“We continue to monitor and assess risks daily, in conjunction with GE Aviation,” said Col. Roger Kuykendall, Army Aviation Turbine Engines Project Manager. “It is a true testament to GE and the government team on the work they have done to minimize delays and remain ahead of schedule.”
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center achieved its first flight of a Chinook with GE Aviation’s T408 engines in September, a milestone that could expand the capabilities of future Chinook heavy-lift missions.
This first flight is the culmination of a five-year effort under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement between the Army, Boeing and GE Aviation to evaluate the feasibility of integrating higher-power engines into the Chinook while assessing the performance and reducing the technical risks.
GE Aviation’s T408 is the most advanced turboshaft engine in its class. To date, the T408 engine has operated flawlessly and has demonstrated exceptional performance. At 7,500 shaft horsepower (SHP), the military-qualified T408 engine provides a combined 5,000 SHP more than the legacy Chinook engine.
The T408 engine provides more than 57 percent more power, 18 percent better specific fuel consumption and 63 percent fewer parts than the engine it is replacing, GE’s T64. It features a more rugged compressor design to increase durability and resistance to sand erosion and salt water corrosion, features ideal to withstand tough operating environments.
GE is also developing a derivative T408 turboshaft engine for the FLRAA program with the intent to deliver the Army a military-qualified, off-the-shelf engine that meets FLRAA requirements. GE’s T64 engine powers Bell’s V-280 Valor Joint Multi-Role demonstrator aircraft.
GE Aviation, in coordination with the in coordination with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Aviation & Missile Center (AvMC), is nearing completion of the Future Affordable Turbine Engine (FATE) program, a multi-year initiative to develop a 5,000- to 10,000-shaft horsepower turboshaft engine.
The program is jointly funded by GE and the Army and was created to meet a series of aggressive weight, cost and performance goals. These include a 35 percent reduction in specific fuel consumption, an 80 percent improvement in power-to-weight ratio, a 20 percent improvement in design life and 45 percent reduction in production and maintenance costs relative to currently fielded legacy engines.
As part of the program requirements, GE has successfully tested two engines. GE has also completed several component tests; including the inlet particle separator, compressor, combustor and turbine. The full engine test program completed over 130 hours of testing and captured more than 2,200 steady-state data points.
“We’re pleased with the results from engine and component testing, which completed all primary objectives,” said Nahatis. “Our FATE program has utilized GE’s impressive stack of commercially-developed technologies and has enabled the most advanced turboshaft development engine in our history.”
Technologies developed and demonstrated under the FATE agreement will serve as the technology pipeline to meet next generation turboshaft engine requirements. These technologies are being incorporated into new engines, including GE’s T901 engine, which the U.S. Army selected to reengine its Black Hawk and Apache fleet through the Improved Turbine Engine (ITE) program.
GE continues collaboration with Sikorsky on the single-engine YT706 powered S-97 Raider™coaxial compound helicopter. The YT706 is a 2,600 shaft horsepower military derivative of the commercial CT7-8 turboshaft engine that powers the Army’s fleet of MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The S-97 Raider is an industry-funded, risk-reduction demonstrator that has demonstrated in excess of 200 knots.
GE Aviation Systems was selected by AVX Aircraft Company to provide a key airborne and ground Systems component asset management system for the U.S. Army Rotorcraft Automated Component Tracking (RACT) program.
GE Aviation’s solution will report the planned and unplanned movement of tracked assets from local aviation units to ensure better maintenance and logistics insights across the fleet, as well as accurate operational availability for individual aircraft.
“By integrating parts tracking and calculation results, we’re able to provide a more accurate use of the actual utilization and consumption of critical parts,” said Christin Rauche, Connected Aircraft executive for GE Aviation. “This will enable military planners to better assign aircraft for current and upcoming missions based on overall health awareness state across the fleet.”
In June GE Aviation was selected by Bell Textron Inc., a Textron Inc. company, to provide the Aircraft Health Awareness System as part of Team Invictus for the Bell 360 Invictus competitive prototype. The health awareness system integrates decades of GE’s proven health management technologies on rotorcraft with their vehicle management system on fixed wing to drive increased operational safety and availability of the fleet.
“GE Aviation is committed to delivering a health awareness solution fusing our rotary wing system that has accumulated in excess of 2.5M flight hours and incorporates 4,500 unique onboard vibration algorithms with our fixed wing configurable onboard maintenance system,” said Christin Rauche, Connected Aircraft executive for GE Aviation.
“This integrated solution will enable Bell to demonstrate key operational and sustainment objectives using its ground-based enterprise systems to provide the US Army with data driven decision making, more efficient troubleshooting and a comprehensive view into aircraft operational availability.”