GE Aviation has started serial production of T408 turboshaft engines that will power Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopters.
Programme partner MTU says an initial contract between GE and the US military – which is valued at $143 million – covers the supply and support of 22 T408-400s that will power helicopters for the US Marine Corps.
The German engine specialist notes that the USMC is set to receive a total of 800 T408 engines for a fleet of 200 King Stallions.
MTU is responsible for the development and production of the T408's power turbine, output shaft and exhaust casings, and has an 18% share in the engine programme.
Powered by three T408s, the King Stallion will triple the earlier-generation CH-53E Super Stallion's external load-carrying capacity to 11,900kg (27,000lb). The Super Stallion is equipped with two GE T64s.
The T408 has 57% more power, delivers 18% better specific fuel consumption and has a nearly two-thirds lower part count than the T64, says MTU. It adds that the new engine has a "more rugged compressor" to increase performance and improve durability, with greater resistance to sand erosion and salt water corrosion.
The T408 completed its first test run in 2009, and has so far logged more than 8,900h.
Initial operational capability of the CH-53K is planned for 2019.
Germany is evaluating the King Stallion as a potential replacement for its existing 81-strong fleet of 1970s-era CH-53GA/GS transports, which will be retired from 2023. Sikorsky – teamed with sustainment partner Rheinmetall – faces competition from Boeing's CH-47F Chinook.