The U.S. Army announced on Monday that the Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) achieved a significant milestone with the delivery of the first two T901 flight test engines for the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft Competitive Prototypes.
The recent press release revealed that on October 20, 2023, the Army delivered these new 3,000 shaft horsepower engines to Bell’s 360 Invictus and Sikorsky’s Raider X programs.
Both competitors will integrate the engines into their prototypes, paving the way for aircraft ground runs in the 2nd quarter of fiscal year 2024 and first flights in the 4th quarter of 2024.
These deliveries represent a momentous achievement in Army Aviation Modernization, as the Army has not developed and delivered a new aviation turbine engine since the T700 began powering the Black Hawk fleet in the 1970s. LTC Kelley Nalley, ITEP Product Manager, expressed pride in the collaborative effort between the Army and GE Aerospace, stating, “It has taken several years of development to get here, so it’s exciting to see the T901 come to life in support of Army Aviation Modernization.”
ITEP’s forthcoming developmental testing includes the completion of system-level Preliminary Flight Rating (PFR) testing, which will enable an airworthiness release for flight testing. PFR testing is currently underway at GE Aerospace facilities and is expected to complete the required testing for the FARA’s flight demonstration in 2024.
The T901 engine will power the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) and replace the T700 engine currently used on all AH-64E Apache and UH-60M/V Black Hawk helicopters. The T901’s enhanced fuel efficiency extends the enduring fleet’s range and loiter time, while the engine’s reliability and life improvements reduce maintenance and sustainment costs.
Both AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk aircraft have served the Army’s mission for over 40 years and will continue to do so for many years to come. Both platforms have gained capabilities over the decades that have increased aircraft weight. The T901-equipped aircraft helps regain lost payload capability, especially in high/hot (6k/95°) conditions, and increases the range and loiter times of the Black Hawk and Apache helicopters.
The T901 leverages additive manufacturing, ceramic matrix composites, and traditionally manufactured components to generate additional power, with a 1,000 shaft horsepower (shp) increase, resulting in a total of 3,000 shp, at roughly the same size and weight as its predecessor, the T700.
Moreover, the T901 engine introduces predictive logistics, enhancing time on wing through an onboard Engine Health Management System supporting Army Predictive and Prognostic Maintenance goals. This system uses health monitoring sensors and embedded component health models and algorithms, providing data analysis and advanced component life calculations in the digital environment. This results in longer component usage, reduced demand for spare and replacement parts, and reduced workload for soldiers.
The T901 acts as a combat multiplier and is crucial to Multi-Domain Operations, providing significantly better reach and lethality for the enduring and future fleet through increased power, performance, and reliability. With the T901, ITEP enhances the ground forces’ capacity to mass dispersed forces, enabling them to fight when and where they choose.
The Army is utilizing a two-phase competitive prototyping strategy to select a contractor to design and build the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA). Phase one of the selection process commenced in April 2019 when the Army chose five vendors to participate in the initial design phase. In March 2020, the Army selected two of the five vendors, Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. and Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, to advance to phase two. Both contractors are designing, developing, and flight testing competitive prototype aircraft.
The second phase focuses on Competitive Prototype ground runs and joint flight performance demonstrations. Ongoing government reviews, testing, and proposals from vendors will inform the Army’s selection of a vendor to continue engineering and manufacturing development.
ITEP is part of the Aviation Turbine Engines Project Office (ATE PO), one of nine Program Executive Office, Aviation project offices located at Redstone Arsenal, Ala. The ATE PO centrally manages the Army’s rotary wing turbine engine and electrical power capability for U.S. Army Aviation and coalition partners.