The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has denied Advanced Turbine Engine Company’s (ATEC) protest of the US Army's selection of GE Aviation's T901-GE-900 for its Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP).

ITEP is the US Army’s engine replacement programme for the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters. The Army plans to drop the new turboshafts into 1,300 UH-60s and more than 600 AH-64s after 2025. For the past 40 years, Black Hawk and Apache helicopters have been powered by GE’s T700 engine.

The ITEP engine is also to power the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), a scout and light attack helicopter that the service wants fielded by 2028.

US Army UH-60 Black Hawk

US Army UH-60 Black Hawk

US Army

ATEC, a joint venture between Honeywell International and Pratt & Whitney, says it is reviewing the decision and will lobby the US Congress to fund a prototype development competition between its T900 and GE's T901.

“The GAO findings notwithstanding, a procurement this crucial should never be made based on paper proposals. Indeed, it is customary for the Pentagon to thoroughly test competing engines before making a final down select,” says Craig Madden, president of ATEC. “Testing provides clear, unequivocal evidence of engine capabilities that cannot be obtained through a proposal.”

For its part, GE Aviation expects the stop work order on the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase of ITEP to be lifted shortly. In February, the company was awarded a $517 million contract to complete EMD work on its T901 turbine engine, but that work was frozen due to ATEC’s protest. The US Army has said it wants development work completed by August 2024, with low-rate production anticipated soon after.

“GE Aviation is committed to accelerating the T901 EMD schedule ahead of the Army's baseline plan to support an earlier fielding in Apaches and Black Hawks, in addition to supporting the FARA program,” the company says.

The US Army wants its new ITEP engine to be 50% more powerful – 3,000shp (2,240kW) – 25% more fuel efficient and provide a 20% longer design life over the current engine. It will also have to maintain high levels of performance at 6,000ft and 35°C (95°F).