The Army said Thursday it has concluded the “first engine to test” (FETT) milestone for its next-generation helicopter engine, the General Electric Aviation [GE]-built T901 system, noting it “successfully verified and validated performance models.”

Testing of the first T901 engine, which was developed under the Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP), consisted of over 100 hours of run time and marked the beginning of a multi-year test campaign toward full system qualification.

The Army’s GE T901 First Engine to Test installed in the test cell before initial engine light off. The engine’s light off marks the start of 100 hours of run time throughout the next two months to verify and validate engine performance models. Photo: General Electric

“The T901 is one critical step nearer to delivering improved power, reliability and fuel efficiency to the Army’s fleet of helicopters. FETT’s successful conclusion serves to inform the next step of engine development and testing confirming that in the T901, Army Aviation has the needed capabilities to increase reach and lethality on the battlefield,” the Army wrote in a statement.

GE Aviation was awarded a $517 million contract in February 2019 to develop its T901 engine for ITEP, which will power the Army’s AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters as well as its Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) (Defense Daily, Feb. 1, 2019).

“The T901 provides the critical capability that will allow Army Aviation greater reach and lethality to dominate and win in Multi-Domain Operations versus Near-Peer Competitors by providing increased power, improved reliability and better fuel efficiency,” the Army said. 

The Army began testing the first T901 engine on March 22, which GE Aviation said is being performed in a newly upgraded test cell at its Lynn, Massachusetts facility, and includes running “a number of simulated flight conditions to collect performance data of the highly instrumented test engine.”

After completing testing of the first engine, the Army has said the ITEP program will begin system qualification this summer where “the testing team will utilize multiple engines to test against Army Military Airworthiness Certification Criteria standards.”

Preliminary Flight Rating testing is set to begin this fall and continue through 2023, according to Thursday’s Army announcement, which include testing eight T901 engines to Army Military Airworthiness Certification Criteria (AMACC) standards.

Brig. Gen Rob Barrie, program executive officer for aviation, told reporters in April the Army is targeting November for delivery of the first T901 engines to the FARA competitors, which sets the path for first flight of the vendors’ competitive prototypes in 2023 (Defense Daily, April 4).

The Army has selected Bell’s [TXT] 360 Invictus and Sikorsky’s [LMT] Raider X designs for the FARA competitive prototyping (CP) phase as it looks to field a new scout attack helicopter.