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Army awaiting go-ahead for new helicopter engines.

The Army's Improved Turbine Engine Program--formerly known as the Common Engine--is in limbo, awaiting funding decisions. The program was designed to provide a more powerful engine for the Black Hawk and Apache helicopters.

Program officials are hoping to receive at least another $500 million to complete the last phase of science and technology and make it through the system development and demonstration phase, according to Keith Roberson, the deputy program manager for utility helicopters.

Without an improved engine, the alternatives are to either fund the development of a new helicopter, which is unlikely at this point, or continue using Chinook helicopters for Black Hawk missions, said Army officials.

The idea of ITEP, however, has "concurrence from every major stakeholder in the Army," said Col. William Gavora, the commander of the Army's Aviation Applied Technology Directorate. "We are charging ahead with these efforts, and right now, we are being greatly assisted by Brig. Gen. Charles Cartwright," the deputy commander of the Army's Research Development and Engineering Command. "I feel that we have got momentum, and we have no disagreement within the Army.... It is just a matter of finding the money and what you want to pay for," Gavora added.

A sizeable amount of the cost of ITEP concept development has been shared with industry. "Much of the development has already been paid for. We are just trying to finish up. The piece to finish it up is a very small percentage of what has already been spent," Gavora said.

The engine technology would be shared across services--Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard--"or anyone who would be flying a 'Hawk,'" said Roberson. The Army is "trying to get joint funding or dollars to spread the pain among the services on the engine development." The Defense Department is overseeing a "rotorcraft working group and looking at all programs in the services to determine what they should do in terms of future investing strategies."

The ITEP engine would "re-balance the Army's lift capabilities and optimizes what the Black Hawk platform is capable to do," Roberson told National Defense. The more powerful and fuel-efficient engine is meant for future versions of the Sikorsky-made UH-60, including the upcoming UH-60M.

"There is no commercial engine on the market right now that can meet the UH-60M ORD [operational requirements document]," Gavora said. "Right now, the Black Hawks can't do their stated mission in Afghanistan, of transporting 11 combat troops an X number of miles, or carrying internal or external loads without reducing the amount of fuel that they have on board, without reducing the payload," he said.

It is not "beyond the realm of reason" that the United States, in the future, would operate in places such as the former Soviet republics, Iran and Korea, that have similar climates and topography to Afghanistan.

"Fundamentally, we have to lift and move 10,000 pounds at 4,000-feet altitudes at 95 degrees Fahrenheit," said Roberson.

The proposed ITEP program is going to leverage what was done under the Integrated High Performance Turbine Engine Technology program, a Defense Department, NASA and industry effort started in the late 1980s.

The IHPTET is going to wrap up in 2005. The Army has led the development of turbo shaft turbo prop technology, said Gary Butler, a lead engineer at AATD's power systems division. "We are going to leverage all the work as part of the ITEP program," he said. "A lot of technology can go across engine classes."

However, much work needs to be done to integrate those technologies into the specific engine the Black Hawk needs, he added. "The program that we demonstrated is really 50 percent of the engine cost and weight."

An improved turbine engine is needed in the 3,000 horsepower class for the modernization of the Black Hawk and Apache helicopters. Performance degradation has occurred in both systems as a result of normal aircraft weight growth associated with new mission equipment. Increased lift and range are being sought to support future battle scenarios.

Additional Black Hawk lift capability is needed to free up Chinooks for heavier loads and to meet increased op-tempo requirements, officials said. An increase in aircraft radius capability, up to 500 km, is desired for both the Apache and Black Hawk.

The goals of ITEP are a 25 percent reduction in specific fuel consumption, a 60 percent improvement in shaft horsepower and weight and a 20 percent reduction in operating and support costs. The ITEP demonstrator and qualification program is scheduled for fiscal years 2004 through 2013, stated AATD documents. The ITEP provides the only engine solution to meet the modernized Black Hawk ORD, according to AATD.

No contract has been awarded, but potential bidders are the teams of General Electric with Pratt Whitney, and Honeywell with Rolls Royce, said Robert Hunt, a spokesperson for the Army Aviation and Missile Command.

General Electric provides the engines for the Black Hawks. The T700-GE-700 engine (1,622 shaft horsepower) on the UH-60A aircraft and the T700-GE-701C engine (1,890 shp) on the UH-60L will be upgraded to the T700-GE-701D (2,000 shp) to power the UH-60M, the latest version of the Black Hawk.

The upgrade includes modifications to the third stage of the power turbine, the stator nozzles and shroud, said Jim Stump, a GE spokesperson.

Additional modifications to the T-700 engines include a new high-pressure turbine (HPT), digital electronic controls and anti-icing bleed valve. Upgrades to the T700-701C include first- and second-stage HPT blade material changes, as well as enhancements to the combustor liner. As a result of the increased power, he said, the T700-GE-701D will enable the UH-60M to carry greater payloads with a reduced maintenance burden.

GE's ITEP proposal will grow from the CT7-8C, a newer member of GE's T700/CT7 family of turbo-shaft engines. In development for the Sikorsky H-92, the CT7-8C will be rated at 3,000 shp--nearly twice the power of a baseline T700-GE-700--as the result of improvements to the gas generator and power turbine, including improved hot section materials and a new three-stage (versus a two-stage) power turbine, Stump explained.

The other ITEP competitor may be a Honeywell engine derived from the joint turbine advanced gas generator component of the IHPTET program.

The Army's Special Operations Aviation Regiment, while a strong supporter of ITEP, is working on alternative ways to boost the horsepower of their MH-60s. A SOAR official contacted by National Defense declined to discuss engine projects and insisted that SOAR remains a supporter of a common engine solution. Sikorsky did not return phone calls.
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Author:Tiron, Roxana
Publication:National Defense
Date:Mar 1, 2004
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