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ATEC protests US Army decision on new helicopter engines

Advanced Turbine Engine Company (ATEC) filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office against the US Army’s decision to award General Electric Aviation a contract to develop a new turbine engine for the service’s helicopters.

The US Army awarded a $517 million contract to General Electric on 1 February to complete engineering and manufacturing development work on its T901-GE-900 turbine engine for the service’s Improved Turbine Engine Programme (ITEP). The new turbine will be installed on the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and Boeing AH-64 Apache.

ATEC is a joint venture of Honeywell International and Pratt & Whitney, a division of United Technologies Corporation, and was the only other eligible bidder in the last stage of the ITEP competition.

"In our review of the evaluation, we clearly offered the best value through a combination of a highly rated and technically superior engine that was judged to be much lower risk, and believe we did so significantly under the government's budget,” says ATEC president Craig Madden. “We are requesting that the government review these facts and award the ITEP contract to ATEC, the best engine and the one that our warfighters and taxpayers deserve."

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US Army Boeing AH-64 Apache

Lockheed Martin

GE Aviation stuck to what it believed was a simpler and more maintenance-friendly approach to the US Army’s requirements: a single-spool turboshaft engine, which places rotating components on one shaft, spinning at the same speed. For its part, ATEC argued that its dual-spool T900 turbine has 10% more power growth capability and a 3-4% specific fuel consumption advantage over comparable single-spool offerings, among other claimed benefits.

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); conditions common in Afghanistan where helicopters have struggled to fly, especially when weighed down by troops and equipment.

The Army plans to drop the new turboshaft engine into 1,300 UH-60s and more than 600 AH-64s after 2025. The ITEP engine is also to power the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, a scout and light attack helicopter for which the service began soliciting bids in October 2018.

The contract is cost-plus-incentive-fee and firm-fixed-price. It has an estimated completion date of August 2024, with low-rate production anticipated soon after.

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