The U.S. Army and powerplant manufacturers are moving to the next phase of an ambitious, nearly decade-old effort to improve Apache and Black Hawk performance and efficiency substantially.
The Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) is Army aviation’s top priority, according to the program executive officer (PEO) for aviation, Brig. Gen. Bob Marion. But it has not moved swiftly.
The Army in 2006 launched the Advanced Affordable Turbine Engine (AATE) program to explore technologies for a replacement for the 2,000-shp-class General Electric T700 that powers the Boeing AH-64 and Sikorsky Aircraft UH-60. That led to ITEP, which was launched in mid-2009.
ITEP’s goal is to develop a 3,000-shp engine that would boost Apache and Black Hawk performance at hot and high conditions of 95F and 6,000 ft while adding efficiency in fuel burn, production and maintenance compared to the T700.
Specifically, the program seeks an engine with a 65% better power-to-weight ratio, 25% lower specific fuel consumption, 20% longer life and 20 to 25% lower production and maintenance costs. Also, the new engine must be a “drop-in” replacement for the T700, requiring no major airframe modifications for installation.
More engine power for both models means more range, more time on the objective and more troops, equipment and ammunition to be carried each mission, said the Army’s ITEP product manager, Lt. Col. Curt Kuetemeyer.
A more capable engine also would help keep AH-64 and UH-60 crews safe, the aviation PEO told the Army Aviation Assn. of America’s aircraft survivability conference last November in Huntsville, Alabama. “If you’re in a situation and you have to get out of that situation and you need power, in many cases today, we don’t have it,” Marion said, adding that ITEP would fix that.
He said a measure of the Defense Dept.’s confidence in the program’s management and progress was its delegation on June 22 of milestone decision authority (or overall executive responsibility for a procurement program) to the Army.
In addition, the Army wants ITEP to mature critical technologies. These include 3-D aerodynamic flow paths, hybrid ceramic/metal bearings and sand-ingestion technology, according to Rich Kretzschmar, project manager for ITEP and Future Vertical Lift (the joint military initiative to produce a new family of light to heavy vertical-lift aircraft starting in the mid-2020s).
Kretzschmar said ITEP technologies would be available for any Future Vertical Lift engine developments or modifications. The Army said ITEP engines eventually would be available to U.S. allies for use in their Apaches and Black Hawks.
Industry groups had a Nov. 9 deadline to respond to the Army’s final request for a proposal for a preliminary design review of an ITEP candidate (issued Sept. 24). The service plans to award up to two contracts for the preliminary design phase; they would include fixed-price incentive (firm target) and firm-fixed-price terms.
Two companies confirmed they bid: the Honeywell-Pratt & Whitney venture Advanced Turbine Engine Co. (ATEC) and GE. The ATEC partners have been collaborating since the AATE program’s launch and have tested their candidate, the HPW3000, under that program. GE has done the same with its GE3000 contender.
(France’s Turbomeca, which has been building its reputation with the Army through its supply of Arriel engines for the growing UH-72A fleet, declined to comment. It said in June that it plans by year-end to begin integrating components for a 3,000-shp-class technology demonstrator.)
The Army said a source selection evaluation board convened Nov. 12 to evaluate the bids.
Kuetemeyer said he expected to have preliminary design contracts awarded by Sept. 30, 2016. He said the Army has budgeted enough money to support two contractors. The recently enacted fiscal 2016 defense authorization law fully funded ITEP at roughly $51.2 million.
Kuetemeyer expects the Army to clear a Milestone A review and move into the technology maturation and risk reduction phase by June 30, 2016, and to pass a Milestone B review for the engineering and manufacturing development phase in July or August of 2018.
|By Pat Host