Army Aviation and industry leaders gathered in one of Sikorsky’s West Palm Beach, FL hangars in February. Helicopters passed overhead as they collected around open engine cowlings on an H-60M Black Hawk to get a glimpse of Army Aviation’s current and future powerhouses. Installed in the left engine bay was a T700-GE–701D engine, representing the T700 engine series that has been the powerhouse of Army Aviation for more than four decades. Installed in the right engine bay was a high-resolution 3D model of the Army’s newest turbine engine, the Improved Turbine Engine Program’s (ITEP) T901-GE-900 which will deliver enhanced Joint All Domain Operations capability to the Black Hawk, Apache, and Future Vertical Lift’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft before 2028.
The side-to-side Black Hawk Fit Check event is one of the ITEP team risk reduction efforts. It was supported by the Utility Helicopters Project Office, Sikorsky, and GE Aviation, to ensure the T901 is a drop-in replacement and a seamless fit. The teams installed the T901 model into both engine bays on the Black Hawk and performed several evaluations, including Human Systems Integration tests, to analyze fit and form. Mr. Bennett Hlavac, ITEP Product Support Manager, spoke to the significance of risk reduction efforts, such as the ITEP Fit Checks, “We owe our due diligence to the Army to provide the best products possible…and, most importantly, we owe it to the Soldier.”
Next, ITEP will continue toward the Critical Design Review (CDR), scheduled for 3QFY2020, which will use the data gathered from both this Fit Check as well as a similar event previously conducted on the AH-64E Apache. During CDR, the T901 will undergo a ballistic assessment and product drawings will be finalized. Per the baseline contract, the CDR will be followed by the First Engine to Test (FETT), which will occur in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021 followed by the Preliminary Flight Rating (PFR) scheduled for fiscal year 2022, which will deem the engine flightworthy. During fiscal years 2023 and 2024, the engine and platform (Apache and Utility) integration and full qualifications will occur, culminating with Milestone C in fiscal year 2024. However, GE Aviation is incentivized under the baseline contract to accelerate PFR by 12 months and is aggressively pursuing that approach with the ATE Project Office.
As the ITEP presses towards CDR, the Fit Checks’ modeled glimpse of the future comes closer to becoming reality. With this vision in mind, the ATE Project Office, as part of Program Executive Office, Aviation, will continue to relentlessly pursue every opportunity to provide Army Aviation with affordable and reliable power solutions.