The US Army plans to issue competing engine manufacturers with a request for proposals (RFP) to start work on the new Common Engine Programme (CEP) for the Sikorsky UH-60X Black Hawk following Defence Acquisition Board (DAB) approval to develop a longer range, increased payload version of the helicopter.

CEP is intended to field an all-new engine to replace the General Electric T700-701 turboshaft on the Black Hawk by 2013-14. The army is planning a science and technology phase in 2003-06, followed by demonstration validation in 2007-10 and full scale engineering and manufacturing development from 2011.

The army is looking to industry to fund approximately half the programme by matching its planned contribution of $450 million. A contract is expected to be awarded by mid-2003, with an initial funding request targeted for the fiscal year 2004 budget, says the Army's Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD).

General Electric has announced its intention to team with Pratt & Whitney on CEP, but it is unclear if this arrangement will survive the pending anti-trust review of GE's takeover of Honeywell. A GE/P&W team effectively leaves Rolls-Royce as the only other US based competitor. GE and P&W extended the CEP teaming agreement earlier this month, and say it will be "business as usual" until the outcome of the Honeywell acquisition. It admits, however, that "once it is concluded it will affect the teaming, we just don't know how."

The US Army says it regards the GE and P&W CEP team as effectively "on hold" pending the conclusion of the Honeywell deal. An industry source confirms that the talks are in abeyance, which allows each company to keep its plans from a potential competitor. The picture is likely to be further complicated by the potential divestment of the Honeywell helicopter engine business as a requirement of the Department of Justice's anti-trust investigations.

R-R was pushing the RTM322 as a partial solution for the Black Hawk's requirement for a 2,235kW (3,000shp) class engine. The RTM322, however, falls short of the CEP's stated objective of securing a 25% improvement in specific fuel consumption, 60% better power to weight ratio and a 20% cut in operating and support costs, says the AATD.

The UH-60X is intended as a follow-on development to the nearer term UH-60M upgrade, also approved by the DAB, with the CEP providing 60% further range and a 70% more external lift. Other potential CEP applications are the USAir Force's HH-60, US Navy SH-60R and the US Army's Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow.

Source: Flight International