US Army’s next-gen helicopter engine could fly in Black Hawk next year

DENVER — The U.S. Army’s next-generation helicopter engine is projected to hit the skies early next year, powering a

US Army’s next-gen helicopter engine could fly in Black Hawk next year

DENVER — The U.S. Army’s next-generation helicopter engine is projected to hit the skies early next year, powering a UH-60M Black Hawk, according to the service and industry representatives involved in the program.

The Improved Turbine Engine Program engine, developed by General Electric’s aerospace division, has experienced a slew of delays related to technology development and supply chain woes. A year ago, the Army predicted a nearly two-year delay getting the T901 engine into the UH-60.

The Black Hawk will be the first to receive the capability, and the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter will follow.

The T901 engine will replace the 1970s-era T700 and provide aircraft with a 50% power increase to restore performance. It’s 25% improved fuel consumption reduces energy usage and carbon emissions. The engine is also expected to have more durable components, which will lower life-cycle costs.

While the Army remains committed to the ITEP engine, earlier this year it decided to keep the program in development longer, pushing back plans for procurement and fielding. The service does not yet have a new plan for when fielding will take place.

Even so, ITEP engines are scheduled to arrive at Sikorsky’s West Palm Beach, Florida, test center this summer, Paul Lemmo, the company’s president, told reporters at the Army Aviation Association of America’s annual summit.

The Army had planned to use the ITEP engine in its Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, or FARA, but canceled the helicopter program this year after two competing industry teams — Bell and Sikorsky — received the engine for the prototypes they were building.

Sikorsky had taken advantage of fiscal 2024 FARA program funding before the Army officially closed the program at the end of the year to run tests of the ITEP in the prototype, ahead of integrating the engine into the UH-60, in order to drive down risk, Lemmo said. On April 10, the company conducted its first ground run of the ITEP engine in the FARA prototype, Lemmo added.

“We lit off the engine and turned rotors for the first time on our FARA [competitive prototype],” Lemmo said. “Obviously watching the rotors turn could be mundane, but it’s pretty exciting to see multiple years’ worth of work that went into that aircraft, but also that engine by our partners General Electric.”

The ITEP engine had previously undergone testing in stands; it was the first time, Lemmo said, that the engine was under a full load, turning rotors.

“We collected that data [at] low speed, and we’re analyzing it,” Lemmo said, noting that “it performed well.”

The Army authorized Sikorsky to run the rotors at full speed to further test ITEP and collect more data, he added.

The ITEP engine, when installed, also fit into the aircraft with no issues, Lemmo noted.

“I think the fact that we proved it on FARA, that the engine fit the first time, it gives us good confidence that it should fit properly, that all the connections should match up when we fit it into the Black Hawk,” Lemmo said.

The Army plans to deliver two ITEP engines to Sikorsky in late May or June, according to Brig. Gen. David Phillips, the service’s program executive officer for aviation, who spoke at the AAAA event.

The company will conduct a fit check with an engine in one of the two modified Black Hawks and install one in the Black Hawk for actual ground runs and flight tests, Lemmo said. Once the company has the engines, it could begin ground runs within a month, he noted.

Then “it’s probably going to take us a good six months to integrate and do the ground runs,” Lemmo said. The aircraft is expected to begin “flying about six months after we get the engine,” he added.

Phillips predicted that getting in the air would “probably occur next year, just based on the schedule where we’re at today.”

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

Source link

About Author