General Electric plans to conclude flight testing its new low observable F110 ejector nozzle by the end of November.

The manufacturer aims to secure initial funding in 2004 for retrofit of the nozzle and a proposed mid-life upgrade (MLU) for the engine that will help sustain the Lockheed Martin F-16 in service for another 20-25 years.

Flight tests began in June but were suspended after four flights due to problems associated with re-engining an instrumented F-16 Block 30 with a higher thrust F110-129. GE plans to resume flight testing next month and to submit an engineering change proposal to the USAF early next year.

The nozzle is designed to be retrofittable to older F110-100s and -129s, some 785 of which are in USAF service powering F-16 Block 30s, 40s and 50s. Rig endurance testing has been completed, clocking up 2,300 total accumulated cycles, 450h of accelerated mission testing and 2,291 afterburner cycles.

The ejector design channels engine-bay cooling air through slots in the exhaust ducts, which lowers exhaust temperature by up to 480°C (900°F) in augmented mode. The benefits are lower heat signature, improved durability and a 4,000h life. The -100's flaps and seals warp and crack at 400-600h.

GE is also submitting data to the USAF for a wider engine MLU incorporating new compressor blisks, three-dimensional aerodynamic blades and a common high-pressure turbine rotor.

"The main thing we are getting out of this is airflow efficiency, allowing for better cooling and temperature reduction at the back of the engine and increased time on wing," says David Jeffcoat, GE F110-132 project manager. The MLU is intended for retrofit at depot and I-level shop maintenance as part of the scheduled overhaul cycle.

Source: Flight International