Driven by the ambition to become world’s third largest turboshaft engine manufacturer after General Electric and Pratt & Whitney, France’s Turbomeca is pressing to establish a Russian partnership to develop and coproduce a new 3,000-shp engine based on the existing RTM322 powerplant and using the new Tech3000 core.
From Turbomeca’s perspective, the key to the planned alliance is that the new engine would be selected to power the proposed high-speed Russian Advanced Commercial Helicopter (Rachel) being developed by Russian Helicopters. The French company already has a memorandum of understanding for a possible cooperation with Russia’s United Engine Corp. (Russian acronym: ODK), but the airframer itself has yet to resolve its powerplant plans for Rachel.
Turbomeca is well positioned in the 500- to 2,000-shp market segment, but it needs a strategic partner to compete with its North American rivals for more powerful turboshaft requirements. Last year Turbomeca lost Rolls-Royce as partner and codeveloper of the RTM322 engine, which had been codeveloped and produced for the NH-90, Merlin and UK’s Apache aircraft.
“We are ready to assemble engines on the Russian soil, together with ODK,” Turbomeca president and CEO Olivier Andreas told AIN. “But if we are not selected on the Rachel, it will be another story.”
However, if Russia accepts the offer of a codeveloped engine it will probably involve some compromise since the choice would impact the plans that Russian engine maker Klimov has to develop the TV7-117V turboshaft as a successor to its aging TV3-117/VK2500 family, which has seen long service with a succession of Mil and Kamov rotorcraft.
According to Turbomeca, the advantages of the proposed RTM322/Tech3000 engine are that it offers a significant improvement in power-to-weight ratio as well as the prospect of achieving certification by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The French company is also seeking to convince its prospective Russian partners of the benefits of connecting with its existing client base of some 2,500 operators across 155 countries, plus 50 repair and maintenance facilities, 90 field service representatives and 12 training centers.
“Our offer [to Russian Helicopters] was very well received,” Andreas said. Negotiations are still ongoing over the Rachel program. Andreas believes the French company is better placed to do business with Russian than with its North American rivals. General Electric and Pratt & Whitney have not succeeded in their previous attempts to partner with Russia’s engine manufacturers Saturn and Perm, respectively. The RTM322 is not constrained by U.S. export control restrictions now that Turbomeca has replaced several U.S.-made parts.
Turbomeca’s sister company Snecma (part of the Safran group) has an established partnership with Saturn to develop the PowerJet SaM146 engine for the Sukhoi Superjet 100 airliner. Meanwhile, it’s Ardiden 3G turboshaft, scheduled for EASA certification in mid-2015, has been selected for the new Kamov 62 helicopter.