On May 30, General Electric [GE] re-started its work on the T901 single-spool engine for the U.S. Army Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) after the Army lifted a stop-work order necessitated by a bid protest, according to GE officials.
Tom Champion, GE’s T901 program manager, and Mike Sousa, GE’s director of business development for advanced turboshaft engine programs, spoke to Defense Daily sister publication Rotor & Wing International in a June 7 phone interview.
“It’s a very exciting program developing a new center line engine that’s going to be out there for decades,” Champion said. “We have every intention of accelerating the schedule to get this capability out to the warfighter as quickly as possible.”
On Feb. 1, the Army awarded GE a $517 million Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) contract for its next generation of Black Hawk and Apache helicopter engines, a contract likely worth billions of dollars as the new engines are also to power variants of the Future Vertical Lift program, including the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft.
On Feb. 19, GE’s competitor, the Advanced Turbine Engine Company (ATEC), which had offered a dual-spool T900 engine for ITEP, lodged a protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO). On May 30, GAO upheld the Army’s decision, and the Army removed the stop work order the same day, according to GE.
ATEC has not given up its effort and has asked Congress to allow both the GE and the ATEC engine to enter the EMD phase. ATEC President Craig Madden has said that “a procurement this crucial should never be made based on paper proposals” and that “it is customary for the Pentagon to thoroughly test competing engines before making a final down select.”
But GE has said that the companies have already run two Army-funded full-engine prototype tests through the Advanced Affordable Turbine Engine (AATE) program and technology maturation and risk reduction (TMRR) work over the past 12 years and that GE ran a self-funded third full-engine prototype test to reduce risk. GE received a $102 million contract for TMRR, while ATEC received a $154 million contract.
Adding a second engine to EMD would delay the ITEP schedule up to two years and double costs, thus endangering the Army’s modernization plans, GE contends.
On the T901, GE said it is working to accelerate “preliminary flight release” — the amount of testing required before the Army is able to fly the engine — by one year, to 2022.
GE is performing the engineering work for the T901 in Lynn, Mass., and Cincinnati. The company plans to conduct component engine testing in Lynn, altitude testing in Cincinnati in 2021, and ingestion testing at the National Research Council in Canada in 2022 to ensure the engine performs after bird strikes or taking in ice.
ITEP seeks an engine that is 50 percent more powerful, 25 percent more fuel efficient, and lasts 20 percent longer than the current Black Hawk and Apache T700 engines by GE — engines that GE said have run more than 100 million flight hours with the Army.