New power plants for new aircraft: there will be plenty to talk about in military-engine circles at Le Bourget

Guy Norris/Los Angeles

For a sector in the doldrums, the military- engine arena will be surprisingly busy at Paris, with many significant propulsion decisions on the near horizon.

Last minute positioning will be particularly intense in the US joint primary aircraft training system (JPATS) competition for which the long-awaited selection is expected in July. The winner will replace aging T-34 and T-37 trainers fulfilling a combined US Air Force and US Navy requirement for up to 700 aircraft.

The bigger prize, however, will also include an estimated export market of 800 trainers to foreign nations, which are waiting for the US decision to be made before planning re-equipment contracts. Israel is one such country with plans to replace around 100 Fouga Magister and McDonnell Douglas (MDC) TA-4s by 2001.

The two turboprop candidates, the Northrop Grumman Super Tucano and the Raytheon Beech MK II, are both powered by the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A. The jet-engine candidates are the Rolls-Royce Viper-powered Lockheed Martin T-Bird II, the Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D-powered Northrop Grumman S.211 and Rockwell Ranger 2000 and the Williams-Rolls F129 (FJ44)-powered CitationJet offered by Cessna.

Further in the future, several large military aircraft decisions will also affect the engine makers. This includes the November 1994 decision by the US Defense Acquisition Board on further buys of the MDC C-17 beyond the 40 now contracted. Even if more of the Pratt & Whitney F117 (military PW2000)-powered transports are bought, P&W stands a good chance of getting extra sales of the PW4000, which has been selected to power the Boeing 747-400F offered for the Non-Developmental Airlifter Aircraft (NDAA). General Electric CF6 is meanwhile, supporting Lockheed's bid with the updated C-5D powered by a CF6.

MDC is lobbying the Japanese Defense Agency to consider purchasing C-17s as part of its new- equipment purchases such as the GE CF6-80CZ-powered Boeing E-767 airborne- warning and control-system aircraft. Japan is also expected to buy between six and eight tanker/transport versions of the 767, as well as several strategic transports as part of a $500 million programme to support United Nations peacekeeping missions.

Allison Engines, now part of R-R, is building up the AE2100 turboprop line to support Lockheed's C-130J development. With recent orders from Australia and the UK, and the prospect of more to Italy, Allison hopes to see further uses of the AE2100 - possibly as a power plant for re-engineering the Lockheed P-3C (for the re-engine maritime patrol aircraft role), and even the Dassault Atlantique. The Atlantique 2 is now in contention with the P-3 for a Philippine MPA contract.

Allison has also found an early military application for its AE3007 turbofan, which was primarily developed for business and regional aircraft. The engine will power the Teledyne Ryan high-altitude endurance unmanned air vehicle, the Tier II Plus. This was selected by the US Advanced Research Projects Agency on 23 May for a 31-month development and flight-test effort worth $164 million. The Williams-Rolls F129 also powers Lockheed's DarkStar stealth Tier III Minus UAV, which was rolled out of the "Skunk Works" on 1 June.

Another MPA re-engineering possibility is the British Aerospace Nimrod used by the Royal Air Force. The potential use of the BMW Rolls Royce BR700, in place of the existing R-R Spey, was recently highlighted by the ditching of a Nimrod in the North Sea following an engine fire. Turboprop versions of the BR700 are also likely to be discussed at Paris as part of the company's efforts to power the European Future Large Aircraft (FLA). Although the programme itself is in turmoil, the size of the potential market - an estimated 1,350 over the next 30 years - keeps the initiative alive. It is likely that Airbus Industrie will be announced as FLA programme manager during Paris, to ensure German and UK Government support.

Another European military programme that has had its fair share of turmoil is the Eurofighter 2000. Though the airframe and its systems have experienced considerable delays, the Eurojet EJ200 power plant has remained consistently close to schedule and was due to make its first flight on the Italian-built Eurofighter prototype just days before the Paris show began. The success of the Eurojet engine, developed by a partnership of Germany's MTU, FiatAvio in Italy, ITP of Spain and R-R in the UK, has done more than anything to bolster the beleaguered Eurofighter, and the consortium will be hoping for a smooth test programme.

Eurojet and French rival Snecma will both be courting Saab at Paris. The Swedish engine aircraft maker is considering more powerful engines to power the JAS39 Gripen which now has a GE/Volvo Flygmotor RM-12 derived from the F404. Snecma will offer the M88-3, a derivative of the M88 now being delivered in production form for the initial production Dassault Rafale fighters.

GE, meanwhile, has no intention of losing its place in the Gripen, and will be offering a version of the F414 for future thrust-growth requirements. GE's near-term focus is firmly on the 98kN (22,000lb)-thrust F414-400 which is being produced to power the MDC F-18E/F for the US Navy. GE handed over the first flight test engines on 26 May and will supply 21 initial test engines for the flight test programme, which runs from late 1995 to 1998.

GE and P&W continue to battle it out over the Lockheed F-16 with the F110-129 and F100-229, respectively. The Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia are all looking for new or additional fighters. MDC is also touting the GE F404-powered F-18 to Thailand. P&W, which in May delivered the 300th F100-229 Increased Performance Engine as part of the Royal Saudi Air Force F-15 order, is focusing on upgrades to the -220 line as new F100 production tails off.

In April, for example, P&W received a $90 million order from the Royal Netherlands Air Force for 106 F100-220E upgrade kits. The modification package elevates the performance of the F100-200 (now powering 92 RNLAF F-16s) to -220 standard (which powers 42 RNLAF F-16s). Shipments begin this year and run through to 1999 providing valuable work for the company during the stretched out run-up to full F119 engine production for the Lockheed F-22 fighter.


In the longer term, Allison, GE and P&W are all banking on the JAST (Joint Advanced Strike Technology) programme. The JAST will provide a family of tactical aircraft to replace a wide variety of types in US and Allied service, ranging from the early F-16 and F-18 to the AV-8B Harrier and Tornado. With a domestic US requirement of more than 2,000 and further export potential for 1,000 more, the JAST is accepted widely as the F-16 of the future as far as foreign military sales are concerned. R-R, as the new owner of Allison, and the manufacturer of the 11-61 Pegasus (the world's only successful vertical take-off engine), is also intimately involved in all the four major JAST design teams.

Three of the four JAST designs would use the P&W F119 as the main engine, and the JAST programme office has asked the teams to study a compromised F119 cycle, which would fit all the candidates. A fourth team, of MDC and BAe, is using the variable cycle (VCE) GE YF120 as its power source.

Whatever the initial outcome of the JAST demonstrator selection, due in mid-1996, GE is convinced that VCE technology is the key to the JAST requirement. As a result, the combined GE/Allison technology team formed in August 1994 is focused on VCE concepts, which are being developed under a variety of JAST contracts.

The GE/Allison team has also been selected as the prime contractor to demonstrate Phase II goals of the Integrated High Performance Turbine Engine Technology Initiative (IHPTET), the aim of which is to double current propulsion capabilities by 2003. By 1997, it aims to meet the Phase II goal of demonstrating a 60% improvement in propulsion capability and higher temperatures.

Later this year, the team will run its first advanced turbine engine gas generator (ATEGG ) core, followed in early 1997 by the first run of a re-configured core, dubbed XTC-76/2. This will demonstrate VCE technology as well as a metal matrix compressor and a high- pressure turbine with Allison-developed Lamilloy blades. All the technology will be run together in ground tests of a Joint Technology Demonstrator Engine (JTDE) in mid-1997.

P&W, meanwhile, hopes to continue the recent rapid progress made in attaining IHPTET goals by successfully running the XTC-66. By 1998, it hopes to run the core with full Phase II capability.

Although R-R and Snecma are anxious not to be left behind on the technology curve, they continue to make a slow rate of progress towards co-operation under the Advanced Military Engine Technology initiative. The furious pace of developments across the Atlantic, and the recent start of "beyond IHPTET" discussions, may provide the European engine makers with an incentive to speed things up.

In other areas, AlliedSignal has established a good footing in the military- engine business with its F124/125. Developed through its International Turbine Engine teaming with Taiwan to power the Ching-Kuo Indigenous Defensive Fighter, the non-after-burning F124 version has now been selected for the Aero Vodochody L-159 combat aircraft. Marketing efforts for the L-159, which is going ahead formally with orders for 72 from the Czech air force, are likely to be in evidence at Paris.

Another AlliedSignal joint venture, the Light Helicopter Turbine Engine (LHTEC) teaming with Allison, received a much-needed boost with the roll-out of the T800-powered Boeing Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche helicopter on 25 May. Meanwhile, testing of GE's T700/T6E core for the NH90 helicopter begins in September, with the first T700-powered flight due in 1997. New applications for the R-R Turbomeca RTM322, now in production for the EH101, will also be discussed at Paris.

Source: Flight International