GE Aviation has completed testing the first full large-turboshaft engine it has built for the U.S. Army’s 5,000- to 10,000-shp-class Future Affordable Turbine Engine (FATE) program. Separately, the company has completed testing a prototype T901-GE-900 turboshaft for the Army’s 3,000-shp-class Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP).
Announcing GE’s achievement of the FATE testing milestone at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) show in Washington, D.C. this week, Harry Nahatis, v-p and general manager of GE Aviation’s turboshaft engine department, said the engine “completed all primary objectives with more than 40 hours of run time and nearly 1,000 steady state and transient data points.” GE Aviation expects to begin testing the second full FATE engine early in 2018.
Calling the FATE engine a “risk-reduction vehicle [that] is a key step in the program toward our final build and performance demonstration,” Nahatis said that, “from a pure design-capability standpoint, the FATE program is the most advanced turboshaft development engine that GE has tested in our history.”
Designed under a $45 million U.S. Army cost-share program competitively awarded to GE Aviation in 2011, FATE makes extensive use of commercially developed technologies to meet a series of aggressive Army performance-improvement targets. These include a 35 percent reduction in specific fuel consumption over comparable existing engines; an 80 percent improvement in power-to-weight ratio; a 20 percent improvement in design life; and a 45 percent reduction in production and maintenance costs.
FATE is intended to demonstrate technologies applicable to existing aircraft and future rotorcraft requirements such as the Pentagon’s Future Vertical Lift program. According to GE, these technologies are intended for new engines such as the T901, and also as upgrades to existing engines such as the T700 powering the Sikorsky UH-60 and the T408 powering the CH-53K.
Announcing the testing milestone for the 3,000-shp-class T901 prototype, Ron Hutter, executive director of the T901 program, remarked: “To validate our analytical models ahead of the preliminary design review [PDR] with the Army, it was critical to demonstrate that a T901 prototype engine…will meet ITEP performance requirements. There is no substitute for testing.”
Hutter said the results of the test were “overwhelmingly successful, confirming that these requirements can be achieved while maintaining the single-spool architecture of the T700 that enables full modularity and higher reliability.”
The U.S. Army launched the ITEP program in 2009 to develop a new turboshaft engine that is 25 percent more fuel-efficient; 50 percent more powerful; 35 percent less costly to produce and maintain; and that offers 20 percent more engine life than the T700. The ITEP engine would be a drop-in replacement for the T700 in the U.S. Army’s huge fleets of UH-60 Black Hawks and AH-64 Apaches.
GE Aviation said that it has invested more than $9 billion since 2010 in maturing commercial technologies applicable to the T901. In the same period it has spent more than $300 million to develop and test T901-specific technologies. The next step for the T901 is a PDR, for which GE was awarded a contract worth $102 million in 2016 by the U.S. Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.
After completing its PDRs of the T901 and the competing T900 ITEP engine developed by the Advanced Turbine Engine Company joint venture between Honeywell and Pratt & Whitney, the Army plans to select a single supplier to complete the engineering and manufacturing development phase of ITEP.