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GE begins testing FATE engine for large helicopters

GE Aviation has started testing the first full version of a large turboshaft engine in development by the US Army as a potential option to power a new generation of high-speed rotorcraft.

The Future Affordable Turbine Engine (FATE) began full-scale rig tests more than five years after the army selected GE to develop the 5,000shp-10,000shp engine.

It fits into the same power class as the Honeywell T55, Rolls-Royce AE1107C and GE’s own T408.

But the FATE is required to deliver an aggressive series of performance goals, including an 80% improvement in power-to-weight, 45% reduction in production and maintenance costs, a 35% reduction in specific fuel consumption and a 20% extension in design life, GE says.

“The FATE program is the most advanced turboshaft development program in GE’s history, incorporating an extensive use of state-of-the-art technologies for the next generation of propulsion,” says Harry Nahatis, GE Aviation’s general manager of Advanced Turboshaft Programs.

The army wants to develop a new family of high-speed rotorcraft with top speeds over 200kt. One version of the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) family could replace the Boeing AH-64 Apache and Sikorsky UH-60 after 2030. Alternatively, the FATE engine also could be selected to re-engine the Boeing CH-47 Chinook, which relies on two T55s.

The FATE is a key part in GE’s growth strategy for military rotorcraft. Three T408 engines, which GE branded commercially as the GE38, power the Sikorsky CH-53K heavy-lift helicopter for the US Marine Corps. GE also is competing for the Improved Turbine Engine Programme (ITEP). The US Army plans to select either the GE3000 or the HPW3000, which is being developed by a Honeywell/Pratt & Whitney joint venture, to replace the smaller GE T700, the engine that currently powers the AH-64 and UH-60.

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