General Electric has formally launched development of the most powerful F110 derivative yet, a 32,500lb-thrust (145kN) version, after its selection to power 80 Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 60 aircraft ordered earlier this month by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The company hopes the $400 million UAE win, for the supply of 88 powerplants, will promote US Air Force interest. Dubbed the F110-132, the updated engine is seen as a potential modular retrofit option for the USAF's Block 50 aircraft. "With the launch of this engine, there could be renewed enthusiasm," says F110 general manager Bob Griswold.

Key elements of the -132 include a long chord blisk fan derived from the F110-118 developed for the Northrop Grumman B-2, a radial afterburner drawn from the YF120 and also aimed at the Joint Strike Fighter, and the design now built into the F414 for the Boeing F/A-18E/F. It will incorporate a composite outer fan duct based on the unit developed for the F404/414.

Griswold says the result is the ability to operate at the higher 32,500lb-thrust rating, or to stay at the F-16 Block 50 power level of 29,000lb thrust and gain up to 50% longer engine life through reduced turbine operating temperatures.

Turbine inlet temperature is "reduced about 100°F [38°C] in the typical flight envelope", says Griswold. Through the use of the new fan module alone, GE estimates the total accumulated cycle life of an F110 could be increased from the present level of about 4,300h (with the -129) to about 6,000h. "The key issue is how long the USAF will continue to use its current equipment. We think this could maybe eliminate up to two depot visits," he adds.

GE is building two -132s for endurance and performance work as part of an ongoing programme of test and qualification work to be completed in 2002. Initial qualification test reports are being written following completion of aeromechanical ground testing on a prototype at the Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tennessee. First flight is due in 2002, with deliveries beginning for the initial UAE aircraft in 2003.

Source: Flight International