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P&W hints at availability of all-new engine for military aircraft

Pratt & Whitney has confirmed the existence of an advanced new engine tailored for the next-generation of military aircraft.

Last February, company officials first disclosed the PW9000 as a "limited development activity" to adapt the core of the PW1000G geared turbofan for the military aircraft market.

P&W now reveals the GTF core - or high-pressure spool - is combined with the low-pressure spool of the F135 fighter engine for the PW9000, and that a finished product could be closer to reality than previously indicated.

"The PW9000 is very real," P&W Military Engines president William Boley told reporters during a media roundtable at the Air Force Association convention on 15 September.

Asked to clarify if he means a PW9000 design concept or a functioning engine is real, Boley started to answer, but stopped himself.

P&W vice president of business development and aftermarket services William Begert noted that the company has both open and closed discussions about the PW9000, and it is sometimes "awkward" to explain details in an open forum.

Whenever the engine is available, P&W plans to offer the engine for a wide range of potential applications. A 25,000lb-thrust (110kN) version of the engine could power the US Air Force's revived penetrating bomber programme, Boley says.

A smaller version in the 10,000lb-thrust class could be offered for a new US Navy requirement to develop an unmanned, carrier-based surveillance and strike (UCLASS) aircraft, he says.

Depending on the application, the PW9000 could be offered with or without a gear to regulate the speed of the inlet fans. For a next-generation airlifter, P&W is likely to offer a geared version of the engine to improve fuel efficiency, Boley says.

The existence of the PW9000 means P&W has a next-generation military engine to compete with the Advent programme, where the US Air Force is funding rivals General Electric and Rolls-Royce. Although Advent proposes to introduce a third stream of bypass air to dramatically improve efficiency, Begert says the PW9000 can offer similar efficiency.

"The GTF core is bringing Advent technology to the marketplace," Begert says.

General Electric Aviation vice-president general manager of military systems Jean Lydon-Rodgers says the PW9000 is "not unexpected". Its existence also validates the GE/Rolls-Royce F136 team's claims that promoting competition is essential for the military engine market, she adds.

"That's competition at its finest," Lydon-Rodgers says. "I find it right in line with the whole argument we're making."

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