GE Aerospace sees opportunities for its military engines business in the Asia-Pacific, particularly for trainers and a new crop of fighters being developed in the region.

Amy Gowder, president and chief executive of GE Aerospace Defense & Systems, says that air forces globally are renewing their trainer fleets, while demand for light-attack aircraft is also growing.


Source: GE Aerospace

The F404 powers several new types, such as the FA-50 and T-7A

GE is well-placed to capitalise on this trend. Its F404 powers both the Boeing T-7A and the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) T-50/FA-50. The T-7A is the US Air Force’s replacement for the Northrop T-38, while the KAI aircraft has been adopted by South Korea’s air force, and has also scored several export wins.

The F404 also powers the Hindustan Aeronautics Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, a type being acquired by the Indian air force.

GE’s larger, more powerful F414 is the powerplant for KAI’s KF-21, and is a candidate to power India’s planned twin-engined fighter, the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft.

Gowder says that the supply chain issues that have impacted the industry are being worked through but in the meantime customers have opted to stock up on spare parts.

“It has been a very challenging time, particularly if we look at the raw material space, metals and castings, and forgings that really hurt us in the beginning,” says Gowder.

“We’re starting to see recovery and improvements in labour, and [we’ve] been able to hire a lot more people,” she says.

GE is looking to overseas help with the supply chain, for example considering a casting capability in Japan.

Meanwhile, GE is adopting a different approach to the collaborative combat aircraft (CCA) space, where unmanned aircraft are envisaged as disposable and expensive, meaning high-capability engines such as the F404 and F414 do not lend themselves to such applications.

“We’re actually going to pivot, and we have some partnerships that we’re working on for a low-cost architecture,” says Gowder. “We see attritible – or very low cycle – engines as a fundamentally different way to design an engine than an F404.”

GE aims to develop a low-thrust engine for a system such as a missile, and then scale it up for CCAs and other attritable aircraft. The company envisages an engine with 800lb (3.6kN)-thrust that scales up to possibly 3,000lb or maybe 6,000lb thrust.

She adds that the company is working with a partner that is getting the first such engine ready for a test.