As GE Aviation prepares to begin detailed design and development of its T901 turboshaft engine under a U.S. Army sole-source engineering, manufacturing, and development (EMD) contract, the company’s competitor is lobbying Congress to also award it a parallel EMD contract so it can mature its rival T900 offering.
In February, GE was awarded the $517 million sole-source EMD contract for the Army's Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP). After a protest from its rival, the Advanced Turbine Engine Company (ATEC) joint venture between Pratt & Whitney and Honeywell, on May 31 the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) notified the companies that after a 100-day review it had denied the protest.
Under preliminary design contracts, GE and ATEC had developed prototypes of their respective T901 single-shaft and T900 two-shaft turboshaft designs to compete for the ITEP requirement.
ITEP sought a new 3,000-shp-class turboshaft engine to replace the single-shaft GE T700s powering the Army’s fleets of Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters.
The service also expects the ITEP engine to power the Future Attack and Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), which represents Capability Set One of the Army's Future Vertical Lift rotorcraft requirement.
GE Aviation promptly heralded the GAO’s decision: “We’ve spent the last 12 years developing the T901 engine, including successful completion of the Advanced Affordable Turbine Engine program, a technology maturation and risk-reduction contract, and three full engine tests,” said Tony Mathis, president and CEO of GE Aviation’s military business. “We’re ready to execute on this contract and deliver the improved capabilities of the T901 to the warfighter.”
However, while praising the thoroughness of the GAO review, ATEC claimed that it is still not satisfied with the selection process.
“The GAO findings notwithstanding, a procurement this crucial should never be made based on paper proposals,” ATEC said. “Indeed, it is customary for the Pentagon to thoroughly test competing engines before making a final down select. Testing provides clear, unequivocal evidence of engine capabilities that cannot be obtained through a proposal.”
To this end, ATEC has called on Congress to provide funding to facilitate both engine types being taken through to the EMD phase of the program.
However, the Army designed the EMD contract to be sole-source with the intention that the contract should transition quickly into mass-production contracts, which would also be sole-source.
Some 6,000 ITEP engines will be needed for the initial part of the program, and FARA production could result in the production of several thousand more.
As a result, Mathis told AIN that GE estimates that ITEP could be worth as much as $20 billion over the program’s life, including production and aftermarket support.
ITEP calls for an engine that will provide 50 percent more power than the latest T700 models but will offer a 25 percent reduction in specific fuel consumption. A 65 percent improvement in the engine’s power-to-weight ratio over the T700 is also required, a 20 percent increase in design life, and a 35 percent reduction in overall production and maintenance costs.
Both competitors say their ITEP engine designs meet those targets.