GE Aviation is preparing to assemble a second test version of its T901 next-generation rotorcraft engine for the US military.
The American manufacturer said on 10 October it is “accumulating hardware” needed to assemble another T901 development engine, with plans to begin testing the second powerplant in 2023.
GE designed and built the T901 for the US Army under the service’s Improved Turbine Engine (ITE) programme – an effort to develop a powerplant for the army’s conceptual Future Armed Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA). The service also intends to retrofit Sikorksy UH-60 Black Hawk utility and Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopters with T901s.
“Testing of the first T901 engine was very successful, with the engine accumulating more than 100h of run time,” says Tom Champion, GE’s T901 programme director.
“We were impressed with the performance and condition of the engine’s compressor, combustor and turbine sections, as well as the 3D-printed manufactured parts and ceramic matrix composite components,” he adds.
Compared to the predecessor T700 engine, the T901 offers 50% more power and 25% less fuel consumption. The prototype also boasts increased component durability, which reduces sustainment costs, GE says.
The company notes that both designs use a common mounting and installation envelope, allowing for “easy retrofitting of the existing fleet”. Ultimately, a total of eight T901s will be included in the army’s airworthiness certification process for the system.
Performance and controls testing on the second T901 will take place at GE’s facility in Lynn, Massachusetts, before the powerplant moves to Evendale, Ohio for evaluation under simulated altitude conditions.
Once testing on the preliminary ITE design is completed, GE will deliver engines to FARA design competitors Sikorsky and Bell.
The company began ground testing its first T901 in March. However, GE has experienced substantial delays in producing flight-ready engines, creating ripple effects for other manufactures with army contracts tied to ITE.
In May, the army pushed back flight testing of the two FARA competitive prototypes – Sikorsky’s RaiderX and Bell’s 360 Invictus – by one year. The service’s Program Executive Office on Aviation cited pandemic-related T901 development delays as the reason.
Competitive testing of the prototypes is set to begin in the third quarter of 2023.
Under the Future Vertical Lift programme, the army is seeking to drastically increase the range and speed of its rotorcraft. Service leaders say those traits will be needed for aircraft to survive on a modern battlefield, amidst the proliferation of portable guided missiles and traditional air defence measures.