Redstone Arsenal, Ala.: The Army’s Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) recently delivered the first two T901 flight test engines for the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft Competitive Prototypes. On 20 October 2023, the Army delivered the 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 which sets the conditions for aircraft ground runs in 2QFY24 and first flights in 4QF24.
The deliveries mark a significant achievement in Army Aviation Modernization. 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, stated, “I am incredibly proud of the teamwork and partnership between the Army and GE Aerospace to deliver engines to the FARA-CP. 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 upcoming 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 in progress at GE Aerospace facilities and is expected to complete the required testing for FARA’s flight demonstration in 2024.
Why ITEP: Solving Present and Future Power Needs
The T901 will power FARA and replace the T700 engine currently used on all AH-64E Apache and UH-60M/V Black Hawk helicopters. The T901’s fuel efficiency improves the enduring fleet’s range, and loiter time, while the engine’s reliability and life improvements reduce maintenance and sustainment costs.
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 added capabilities over the decades that have increased aircraft weight. The T901-equipped aircraft helps regain lost payload capability, particularly in high/hot (6k/95°) conditions and increases the range and loiter times of the Black Hawk and Apache helicopters.
The T901 combines additive manufacturing, ceramic matrix composites, and traditionally manufactured components to generate additional power (a 1,000 shaft horsepower (shp) increase; 3,000 shp total) at roughly the same size and weight of its predecessor, the T700.
Additionally, the T901 engine will introduce predictive logistics that increase time on wing via an onboard Engine Health Management System that supports Army Predictive and Prognostic Maintenance goals by using health monitoring sensors and embedded component health models and algorithms. In the digital environment, these technologies provide data analysis and advanced component life calculations that enable longer component usage, reduce demand for spare and replacement parts, and reduce Soldier workload per system.
The T901 is a combat multiplier and is critical to Multi-Domain Operations. It provides significantly better reach and lethality for the enduring and future fleet through increased power, performance, and reliability. With the T901, ITEP provides ground forces the opportunity to fight when and where they choose by increasing our capability to mass dispersed forces.
The FARA Program
The Army is using a two-phase competitive prototyping strategy to select a contractor to design and build the aircraft. Phase one of the selection process began in April 2019 when the Army selected 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 continue to phase two. Each of the two contractors is designing, developing and flight testing a competitive prototype aircraft.
The second phase of the effort remains focused on Competitive Prototype ground runs and joint flight performance demonstrations. Subsequent testing opportunities and parallel government review of forthcoming proposals by both Bell and Sikorsky for the engineering, manufacturing, and development phase of the program set conditions for future program milestones. This testing, in addition to ongoing government reviews and further proposals from the 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 is responsible for centrally managing the Army’s rotary wing turbine engine and electrical power capability for U.S. Army Aviation and coalition partners.