The Army Turbine Engine Improvement Program reached a milestone on March 22 with the flameout (the first time fuel is ignited in the engine to generate power) of the first General Electric T901 engine to test.
The T901 engine will replace the T700 engine currently in all Boeing AH-64 Apache and Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and will provide increased power, improved reliability and better fuel efficiency. The T901 will also equip the future attack reconnaissance aircraft.
In the development of turbine engines, the FETT is a critical step. These are the culminating years of engineering design work that will verify and validate engine performance models through engine testing. To accomplish this, the T901 is instrumented with over 700 sensors to capture performance data. In total, the T901 FETT will complete over 100 hours of operation over the next two months as the engine undergoes a gradual break-in process that builds up to maximum power.
The completion of FETT will usher in the next phase: engine qualification. This summer, the test team will use multiple engines to test the Army’s military airworthiness certification criteria standards. Successful testing will lead to ground and airborne versions of the T901. When complete, the engine will have undergone approximately 1,500 hours of full-scale ground testing for preliminary flight qualification and nearly 5,000 hours of testing for full engine qualification.
The AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk aircraft have served the Army mission admirably for over 40 years and will continue to do so for many years to come. However, both platforms have added capabilities over the decades resulting in increased aircraft weight. Therefore, payload and/or range decreased accordingly. The T901 regains this lost capability, especially in high/hot conditions (6k/95) and improves it through increased shaft power and lower specific fuel consumption.
The ITE T901 combines additive manufacturing, ceramic matrix composite parts and traditionally produced parts to generate 50% more power (1,000 shp increase; 3,000 shp total) and 25% energy efficiency (at maximum power) about the same size and weight as its predecessor, the GE T700. The extra power of the T901 allows Apache and Black Hawk helicopters to operate at 6k/95 with a full mission payload. Likewise, vastly improved fuel efficiency allows for increased range and loafing time while simultaneously delivering cost savings through less fuel burned per horsepower generated. The T901 will also have lower greenhouse gas emissions measurements than the T700.
Additionally, the T901 engine will bring additional synergy with the aircraft in its capabilities to provide predictive logistics that increases time on wing and improves reliability. The T901 engine incorporates an on-board engine health management system that supports the military’s predictive and prognostic maintenance objectives using health monitoring sensors, embedded models, and algorithms. These technologies provide data analysis and calculations designed to reduce the demand for spare parts and reduce the workload of mechanics per system.
The T901 is a combat multiplier and essential to multi-domain operations with dramatically increased range and lethality for the operational and future fleet through increased power, reliability and fuel efficiency. The extinguishing of the T901 FETT light brings army aviation closer to this reality.