US Army wraps up first tests for new engine for Apache and Black Hawk helicopters

The tests were done with the Improved Turbine Engine Program engine.
Loukia Papadopoulos

The U.S. Army successfully completed the first round of tests for its T901 Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) engine that will now be used on the AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, the UH-60 Black Hawk choppers and the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, according to a statement released on Thursday.

Over 100 hours of run time

The T901 ITEP engine was built by General Electric in February of 2019. The company obtained a $517 million award to develop it, beating out the Advanced Turbine Engine Company — a Honeywell and Pratt & Whitney team. The completion between the companies for the engine was a decade-old ordeal. The result was a significantly more powerful engine.

According to initial reports, the engines GE delivered are operating well. "On 28 June the Army’s Aviation Turbine Engines (ATE) Project Office ITEP concluded First Engine to Test (FETT) of the very first GE built T901 engine for Army Aviation," the Army said in its statement. "FETT initial light off occurred on 22 March and the testing consisted of over 100 hours of run time. The event successfully verified and validated performance models on the Army’s next generation rotorcraft engine that will power the Boeing AH-64 Apache, the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA)," according to the service branch.

The new engines will give the military new capabilities that are essential for future operations.

'The T901 is the Army’s new 3,000 shaft horsepower center line engine designed to fit the existing nacelle of the Apache and Black Hawk and is also the engine for FARA. The T901 provides the critical capability that will allow Army Aviation greater reach and lethality to dominate and win in Multi-Domain Operations versus Near-Peer Competitors by providing increased power, improved reliability and better fuel efficiency," further noted the statement. 

Tests delayed due to coronavirus pandemic

The tests for the engine took longer than expected as the coronavirus pandemic caused schedule slips that influenced the FARA competitive prototyping effort which requires the ITEP engine to fly. Bell and Lockheed Martin were chosen to build the FARA prototypes with the ITEP engines.

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Both firms have stated that they are on track to complete the build of their prototypes and that they have been using 3D printed ITEP engines in place of the real ones until the Army delivers those. All parties involved are seeking to achieve the first flight milestone by the end of 2023.

"Preliminary Flight Rating testing will initiate this fall, continuing through 2023, and includes eight T901 engines tested to Army Military Airworthiness Certification Criteria (AMACC) standards. These standards ensure an engine meets Army requirements for design, production, and continuing airworthiness and will encompass approximately 1,500 engine test hours. In total the T901 will undergo nearly 5,000 hours of testing to achieve full engine qualification," read the Army's statement. 

Ultimately, the engine is meant to deliver improved power, reliability, and fuel efficiency to the Army’s fleet of helicopters.

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