General Electric Aviation was selected by the US Army for a $517 million contract to complete engineering and manufacturing development work on its T901-GE-900 turbine engine for the service’s Improved Turbine Engine Programme (ITEP).
The company’s T901 turbine engine has a single-spool core architecture, compared to the T900’s dual-spool design put forward by competitor Advanced Turbine Engine Company (ATEC), a joint venture of Honeywell and Pratt & Whitney. 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.
ITEP is the US Army’s engine replacement programme for the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters. The Army plans to drop the turboshaft 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.
General Electric T901 turbine engine
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 the UH-60 and UH-64 have struggled to fly, especially when weighed down by troops and equipment.
GE Aviation stuck to what it believed was a simpler and more maintenance-friendly approach to those requirements: a single-spool turboshaft engine, which places rotating components on one shaft, spinning at the same speed.
“The full modularity of the T901’s single-spool core provides the Army with superior fix-forward maintainability,” said the company. “Combat units can swap out modular parts of the engine in the field and travel with fewer full-sized spare engines, simplifying logistical footprints and supply lines.”
Black Hawk and Apache helicopters for the past 40 years have been powered by GE’s T700 engine, also a single-spool design, which the company says has amassed more than 100 million flight hours.