General Electric has machined the first parts for the new GE38-1B turboshaft engine that will power the Sikorsky CH-53K heavylift helicopter under development for the US Marine Corps.

The traditional "first chips" ceremony to mark the start of manufacturing followed initial machining of a power turbine disk for the first GE38 development test engine, says US Naval Air Systems Command.

GE Aviation is under contract to produce five ground-test and 20 flight-test engines. Some 6,000h of engine ground testing is scheduled to begin in 2009. Flight tests are to begin in 2011.

The 7,500shp (5,600kW) GE38-1B is derived from the GE27 technology demonstrator, CFE738 commercial turbofan and stillborn T407 turboprop. The turboshaft has five axial compressor stages and one centrifugal, a two-stage gas generator turbine and three-stage power turbine, and dual-channel full authority digital engine control.

Three GE38s will power the CH-53K. GE says the engine provides 57% more power, 18% better specific fuel consumption and has 60% fewer parts than the T64 powering the existing CH-53E. The USMC plans to buy 156 CH-53Ks.