The U.S. Army is progressing on an advanced science and technology (S&T) effort to develop a new engine for its Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks and Boeing AH-64 Apaches. The new powerplant will be developed under the Army’s Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) and designed to increase shaft horsepower while decreasing fuel consumption. An initial Request for Information was issued to industry in 2009 (See Rotor & Wing, September 2009).
Current plans call for materials development decisions to be made during FY12 on the transition of the program into R&D. This will bring it into prototyping “and take it forward eventually into the engineering manufacturing developing phase,” according to Col. Thomas Todd, project manager for utility helicopters.
Todd said that the Army, through what is called a “capability portfolio,” and through a capability portfolio back in 2010, decided to go forward with this requirement as valid. “The industry had been looking at it as something they might be able to do, certainly in S&T, and we were waiting to see what the S&T program produced. And right now at some of the individual component levels the development is promising. So the Army has decided to move forward with it.”
The Army issued its initial announcement for a growth engine replacement in 1998, although launch funding did not become available until the 2007/2008 time frame. “Hopefully, it will be a five to six year program, but that remains to be seen,” Todd said. “Right now we are just writing the requirement for that, so we are going to have to wait and see what the requirement is going to be.”
The new ITEP engine would be an enhancement to the existing aircraft, with the engine fitting onto the existing engine decks, so there would not have to be another version of the Black Hawk or the Apache, he explained. The new engine would replace the current T700-GE-701C/D engines, with the shaft horsepower increased from the 2,000 shp to the 3,000 shp range. However, “the issue is not a more powerful engine,” Todd said. “We have those today. The issue is more powerful engines that are small enough to fit in the same cowling, and at the same time give us significantly better fuel consumption so that we can extend our reach, maybe 10 to 20 percent more.”
Initial objectives of the new engine program are based on comparative parameters of the -701C, providing a 25 percent improvement in specific fuel consumption, a 65 percent increase in power-to-weight ratio, a 35 percent reduction in production and maintenance costs, and a 20 percent increase in engine design life. Todd noted that aviation is still going to be important in Iraq and Afghanistan. “With the U.S. military planning to reduce its troops in theater, it will inversely require more mobility. If you think about it, that means more aviation assets. We are going to have to have longer reach and fewer troops servicing an area other troops might have been able to service.”
An ITEP engine on the UH-60M would extend the mission radius with an external payload of 9,000 lbs from 35 nm to 73 nm, while the -701D-equipped UH-60M would be restricted to just over 5,000 lbs with a 73 nm mission radius. For the Apache powered by the -701C engine, the new ITEP engine would increase range from 140 to 175 nm and payload from 3,400 to 4,500 lbs.