The United States Air Force has awarded GE Aviation a $1B contract to continue maturing its three-stream adaptive cycle engine via the Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP), paving the way for use on the US Military’s most advanced combat aircraft.
Scheduled to run through 2021, AETP will validate both full engine system capabilities and aircraft integration. AETP builds on earlier efforts starting with ADVENT, which developed new technologies that culminated in the world’s first three-stream turbofan demonstrator, and AETD, which refined those technologies and led to a “flight weight” design.
“For nearly a decade, GE has successfully partnered with the Department of Defense to effectively design, manufacture and test our revolutionary combination of engine architecture, cooling technology, and material technology advancements,” said Dan McCormick, general manager of GE Aviation’s Advanced Combat Engine programs. “These efforts will help extend aircraft operating range by over 30%, improve fuel consumption by 25% and increase thrust by more than 10%.”
Fixed cycle engines powering today’s military aircraft are limited, or “fixed,” to one capability: either maximum power or fuel efficiency, which restricts aircraft performance and increases sustainment costs. GE’s AETP engine delivers the ability to alter from a high-bypass, fuel-efficient engine — similar to those deployed on tanker/transport aircraft — to a low-bypass, high-performance engine needed for fighter jets.
The “adaptive” feature is combined with an additional third stream of cooled air that can be used to further increase thrust, improve fuel efficiency, and dramatically reduce the aircraft heat load.
AETP incorporates the industry’s most extensive use of advanced manufacturing and heat-resistant material technologies initially developed for GE’s commercial jet engines, such as ceramic matrix composites (CMC) and additively manufactured components pioneered on the best-selling LEAP and GE9X engines.
These innovations—which further reduce fuel consumption and lower aircraft operating weight—enable the engine to meet or exceed the military’s aggressive performance targets.
“We are honored to initiate the next phase of the technology maturation and believe GE is best positioned to integrate the adaptive suite of technologies into existing and next-generation combat aircraft,” said Dan.
WATCH: The Air Force & GE’s Adaptive Cycle Engine
Forty years after the Air Force’s B-1 bomber took flight with a fixed cycle engine that would later power the first Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s, new propulsion technologies developed for the 737MAX and A320neo will form the core of next-gen combat aircraft. Learn how GE’s adaptive cycle engine marries the performance of a fighter jet with the fuel savings of a commercial jetliner.