New turbine engine to restore helicopter lift capability
Degraded lift capability of helicopter is especially problematic in areas where high-altitude, high-temperature flights are required, including nearly half of Afghanistan.
Using the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter as an example, at the Army Aviation Association of America-sponsored 2016 Army Aviation Mission Solution Summit in Atlanta Maj Gen William K Gayler said an average of about 78 pounds per year have been added annually-for all the right reasons. That includes increased protective gear, ammunition, new technologies and so on. Over the years, those increases have totaled about a ton-and-a-quarter.
All of that weight affects speed, lift, range, maneuverability and the amount of stuff that can be carried.
Years ago, four Black Hawks could move a platoon. Now, it takes eight or nine and by 2020-assuming the linear weight increases continue at the current rate-it will take 15 to 20, he said. That decrease in capability severely limits options for ground commanders, besides that it increases risk, and fuel consumption goes way up as well.
The new Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) will eventually replace the existing General Electric T700-GE-701C/D engines that now power AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk aircraft. The ITEP is a completely new engine and is the solution for improved mobility, range and payload capacity of the current fleet.
ITEP will replace the 1970s-era T700 family of engines for the Black Hawk and Apache fleet. It is going to provide over 3,000 shaft horsepower, which is a great increase over the current 1,900 to 2,000 hp. The ITEP design will also decrease the amount of maintenance required.
Soldiers are excited about ITEP as well, but their emphasis is on the maneuverability aspect of what it promises, and somewhat less on range and payload. That may mean special operations will get its own variant, but cost would be an important deciding factor.
ITEP is a big deal for the US Army and it will be resident in about 85 percent of its platforms. It also has potential for Future Vertical Lift, or FVL, if not the motor then pieces of the technology.