A small crowd gathered in a Boeing hangar in Mesa, Arizona 28 Jan. 2020 to watch as a crane gently lifted a full scale 3D printed model of the Army's newest turbine engine, the Improved Turbine Engine Program's (ITEP) GE T901, from its shipping crate in preparation to mark another milestone for the ITEP.
Over the next two days, the Aviation Turbine Engines (ATE) Project Office's ITEP Integration team worked alongside the Apache Attack Helicopter Project Office, Boeing, and General Electric Aviation to assess the form, fit, and Human Systems Integration (HSI) of the model GE T901 in an Apache AH-64E as an integration risk reduction effort.
As the T901 model was mounted in each engine bay, the teams analyzed the engine's fit in the bay, took measurements, and assessed if maintainers can access key points on the engine in austere conditions. Ms. Jessica Rodriguez, from the ATE Product Office's Logistics Division, and Specialist Andrew Carter, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, assisted in the Fit Check as soldier representatives to assess how accessible the engine was to repair and maintain for the HSI checks. The Fit Check event concluded on 29 January with the model T901 successfully installed in both AH-64E engine bays with no interference. Mr. Rich Crabtree, a member of the ITEP AH Integration team, summed up the event, "It fits like a glove... just like the T700."
The ITEP's T901 was created as a replacement for the current T700 engine to address the enduring fleets' ever increasing weight gain which impacts performance. Over the last 40 years, the Black Hawk and Apache helicopters have been upgraded to improve capabilities, but each platform has experienced significant weight gain from these enhancements. This weight gain directly impacted the lift and range of each platform, especially during operations in regions with high-hot flight conditions. The GE T901, as a 3,000 SHP class engine is designed to provide:
- Significant fuel savings and power enhancement over the current T700-GE-701D engine
- World-Wide performance at 6K/95°F
- Modular design that enables field level repair
- Lower operation and sustainment costs
- Joint All Domain Operations (JADO) capability
As one of Army Aviation's top modernization priorities, the GE T901 is designed to provide affordable, reliable power to the Army's enduring Black Hawk and Apache fleets, and is the designated engine for the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), one of the Army's top six modernization efforts. The ITEP is currently in the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) Phase of acquisition following a successful Milestone B decision and EMD contract award to General Electric on 1 February 2019 to design, develop, and deliver the T901 engine. Integration support contracts for the enduring fleet were awarded to Boeing in August 2019 for the AH-64E platform and to Sikorsky in September 2019 to integrate onto the H-60M platforms. Upcoming significant events for the ITEP include the T901 engine Fit Check in the Black Hawk and the Critical Design Review (CDR) in the third quarter of 2020.