GE submits final proposal for US Army's ITEP program

After investing $10 billion in their supply chain and $9 billion in maturing technologies over the past decade, GE Aviation stands ready to answer the U.S. Army's call for an improved turbine engine with their new XT901 turboshaft helicopter engine. GE submitted its final Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) proposal to the U.S. Army, offering its XT901-GE-900 engine for the Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP), the U.S. Army's endeavor to re-engine its Boeing AH-64 Apaches and Sikorsky H-60 Black Hawks. The U.S. Army is also expecting the ITEP engine to meet Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft requirements for Future Vertical Lift (FVL).

GE submits final proposal for US Armys ITEP program 001 A rendering of GE's T091 engine
(Credit: GE Aviation)

GE Aviation also congratulates Sikorsky on their 40th anniversary of delivering the first Black Hawk to the U.S. Army in October 1978. GE’s T700 engine has powered all U.S. Black Hawk and Apache helicopters for the past four decades, racking up more than 100 million flight hours of combat-proven experience. Through continuous upgrades and technology advancements, GE has doubled the power of derivative engines in the T700 family over its lifetime and reduced its cost to the government by 50 percent.

The simplicity of the T700 engine’s single-spool design is the key to its low cost, growth, reliability, maintainability and reduced life-cycle costs. “Countless Black Hawk and Apache Aviators have been able to focus on completing their missions and getting home safely because of the T700 engine’s renowned reliability and dependability,” said Ron Hutter, executive director of the XT901 program. “It just gets the job done.” As a result, GE carried over the benefits of a single-spool architecture, ensuring the XT901 engine is ready to continue delivering combat readiness to the Warfighter over the next four decades. “The T700’s 40-year track record as the highly reliable, single-spool workhorse powerplant for Army Aviation is indisputable,” said Hutter. “We are proud of our heritage, we have invested for the future and we’re ready to go.

The full modularity of the XT901’s single-spool core provides the Army with superior fix-forward maintainability. Combat units can swap out modular parts of the engine in the field and travel with fewer full-sized spare engines, simplifying logistical footprints and supply lines. “Compared to a dual-spool core, the XT901’s proven, single-spool core is less complex, less expensive, lighter weight and fully modular,” said Hutter. “It allows for unmatched shadow-of-the aircraft maintainability, resulting in greater mission flexibility and improved Warfighter readiness.

The fully modular design also offers superior growth potential at a lower cost through incremental improvements to engine modules, a significant advantage to meet the Army’s FVL requirements. 

GE has invested more than $10 billion in their supply chain over the past decade, including eight new facilities, ten plant expansions and one-and-a-half million square feet of new, advanced manufacturing space in the U.S. Additionally, GE has invested $9 billion in maturing technologies applicable to the XT901 and more than $300 million to develop and test turboshaft-specific technologies. The XT901 engine design draws from an impressive stack of proven commercial technologies, including additive manufacturing, ceramic matrix composite (CMC) components, sand tolerant technologies, 3D aerodynamic design tools, advanced cooling technologies and industry leading prognostic and diagnostic tools.

Additive manufacturing and CMCs, in particular, allow GE to create advanced, cost effective parts with shorter development time that significantly reduce specific fuel consumption, decrease weight by one third and increase durability. Some of the additively manufactured and CMC parts incorporated in the XT901 engine simply cannot be made with traditional manufacturing means. One of the additive parts in the XT901 reduces an assembly of more than 50 subcomponents into one part. GE is an industry leader in the additive manufacturing space, having created a separate business, GE Additive, with an elite network of manufacturing and design experts who are advancing additive manufacturing technology every day. Learn more about additive manufacturing here and about its impact on the aerospace industry here. 

CMC components used in the hot section of the XT901 can withstand temperatures 500 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than metal components. Over the past decade, GE has spent more than $1.5 billion to bring advanced CMC technology to market. To meet the projected future demand for CMCs, GE invested $200 million to build America’s first center for mass-producing raw materials used to manufacture CMCs. It is located in Huntsville, Ala., and held its ribbon cutting ceremony in May 2018.  

GE has spent decades developing and maturing these technologies in its commercial and military engines businesses. Additively manufactured and CMC parts currently fly on CFM International’s best-selling LEAP engine and GE’s newest widebody engine in development, the GE9X engine. CFM International is a 50/50 joint company between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines. The LEAP fleet has logged more than two  million engine flight hours, and the GE9X, the world’s largest jet engine, completed its first flight March 14 aboard GE’s flying testbed. Additive parts will have 715 million hours and CMC parts will have 560 million hours of operating experience in the LEAP and GE9X engines by the time the XT901 enters production, enabling the engine to exceed the Army's aggressive performance targets with field-proven, low-cost technologies.             

To further prove the XT901 is ready and meets the Army’s ITEP requirements, GE funded and successfully completed testing a XT901 prototype engine last year, as well as tests on all components of the engine. GE assembled a top technical team of more than 100 experienced engineers to focus on XT901 engine design and testing. These company-funded investments demonstrate GE’s commitment to providing only the most proven technologies available to the Warfighter and the Department of Defense. Additionally, GE Aviation and the U.S. Army successfully installed a full-scale XT901 engine mockup into an Apache and Black Hawk this past December, demonstrating that the XT901 properly fits into both airframes. 

The Army and GE successfully completed their Preliminary Design Review (PDR) this past May, approving GE Aviation’s design and configuration of the XT901 engine. PDR completion is a major milestone within the Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction (TMRR) contract, a $102 million, 24-month contract the Army awarded GE in September 2016, that was recently extended to March 2019. The U.S. Army Contracting Command, based at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala., plans to down select to one engine manufacturer for the EMD phase within the next few months.