Rolls-Royce Turbomeca is developing a growth version of the RTM322 helicopter engine which could be in service as early as the end of 2005.

Dubbed ‘step zero', the designs will take the powerplant from the current 2,400shp (1,800kW) to beyond 2,500shp in the near term and potentially 3,300shp once further growth improvements are finalised.

Key competitions including Australia's Air 9000 contest and Singapore's maritime helicopter needs and subsequent replacement of its Eurocopter Puma fleet are driving the growth plans.

Keith Reid, Rolls-Royce Turbomeca international marketing manager, says hot and high mission capability is becomingly increasingly important to operators: "RAF operations in Afghanistan and also Bosnia proved that there was a requirement for improved performance in these conditions.


"What we've been able to do with the RTM322, because it was designed with future growth in mind, is produce very closely related designs for two new variants – one for the NH90 and one for the EH101.

"The only difference between the two is the inlet particle separator which is part of the EH101 development but is replaced by a vortex separator for the NH90. The differences are based on location and mission needs and help to extend the life of the engine significantly."


Reid says the focus has been on developing a powerplant that makes mission calculations simpler for the customer. "Operators don't want the complexity of having to calculate what their performance will be at altitude compared with sea level. They want flat-rated performance and because of that we are working on ‘specific excess power' and how we can help operators perform missions in hot and high terrain."

The RTM322 was the engine that NH Industries built the NH90 around and because of the growth potential built into the design, the ‘step zero' model is almost identical in weight and, crucially, size so that it becomes almost a ‘plug in' for mid-life upgrades.

"That's important to us," says Reid. "It keeps cost out of the retrofit. We learned a lot about the engine during its civil and military certification and in particular a CAA test which required us to generate 2,850shp in OEI (one engine inoperable) conditions. We actually reached 3,100shp with no problems and that reaffirmed our belief in the growth potential."

Source: Flight Daily News