Rolls-Royce and Turbomeca are close to launching a growth version of the RTM322 turboshaft engine, based on increased demand for improved hot-weather and high-altitude missions.

Both companies are at "advanced stages" in preliminary designs for a new version, planned to take the engine from the current 2,400shp (1,790kW) 019 variant used for the NH Industries NH90 to "beyond 3,000shp". R-R chief engineer helicopter engines Andrew Webb says more power could be achieved with only a small weight penalty and no changes to external dimensions by using new materials. The engine also has capacity for higher turbine temperature and a larger up-flow compressor, he adds.

Webb says the request for a higher-powered variant has come from existing AgustaWestland EH101/Merlin HC3 customers engaged in hot-and-high missions. Additionally, both AgustaWestland and Eurocopter have requested a growth engine for new orders expected in Asia and the Middle East, he adds. Plans are also under way for a USA-sourced and manufactured version for Lockheed Martin-led tenders for the US Coast Guard and presidential helicopter.

Webb says the test programme for the 019 variant was not hindered by the engine failure of a German NH90 in May. R-R says early assessment of the incident, which resulted in main blade and tail damage, points to a detached turbine blade in the second-stage gas compressor, possibly caused by extreme cold. Webb says the final analysis may result in design changes, but says delivery to Nordic countries, where cold weather blade fatigue may be a factor, are not scheduled for several years.

Meanwhile, NH Industries has awarded a €2.5 million ($2.8 million) contract to CIRA, the Italian Aerospace Research Centre in Capua, Italy, to carry out icing qualification tests of the NH90 main rotor blade. CIRA is running icing tests on the NH90 air intake of the T700E-powered version.

These will check the performance of the NH-90 main blade ice protection system in more than 100 tests during which the blade sections will be subjected to air velocities exceeding 400kt (740km/h), temperature down to –30°C (-22°F), at a simulated altitude of 20,000ft (6,100m), under severe cloud icing conditions. The tests will be performed using three different full-scale sections of the NH90 main rotor.

Source: Flight International