Engine could be offered to power US Navy contract bids

General Electric is considering resurrecting a turboprop version of the stillborn GE38 engine in response to requests for information (RFI) for a new 3,725kW (5,000shp) class powerplant for the US Navy's planned E-2 Advanced Hawkeye and proposed Orion 21 contender for the Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) competition from Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, respectively.

GE says it is again looking at the GE38 in response to the two RFIs, as well as a possible turboshaft derivative to re-engine 111 Sikorsky CH-53E heavylift helicopters for the US Marine Corps. The GE38 was the basis for the T407 turboprop that was in development for the Lockheed P-7A replacement for the P-3C before cancellation in 1990. The GE38 core was adopted for the Dassault Falcon 2000 business jet's GE/Honeywell CFE738 turbofan.

If developed, the turboprop would compete against the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150 and Rolls-Royce AE2100.

Internally there are doubts over the GE38 turboprop's business case in view of the potential market and question marks over both navy fixed-wing programmes.

"We are exploring propulsion options for the Advanced Hawkeye and possibly to serve as a retrofit on [earlier] E-2s," says the USN. "However, nothing beyond that is funded and our current plan is to use the [R-R] T56 engine on Advanced Hawkeye." The navy plans to build up to 75 new Advanced Hawkeyes from 2006, depending on how many of the current E-2C Hawkeye 2000s are produced and whether earlier Group 2 aircraft are modernised.

Under its component advanced development contract, Lockheed Martin is evaluating different Orion 21 powerplant, nacelle and propeller combinations. Orion 21 faces strong competition from the Boeing 737 and it is unclear whether the USN has funding to develop and build 150-200 MMAs.

The GE38 faces the R-RAE1107 and PW150 turboshafts for the CH-53E Service Live Extension Programme, which the USMC hopes to kick-start in 2004. As an alternative, GE is mulling an improved T64-419 version of the -416 which powers the helicopter.

Source: Flight International