General Electric and a Honeywell/Pratt & Whitney team are testing new 3,000-shp. turboshaft engines amid signs that, despite current budget challenges, the U.S. Army remains committed to re-engining its Boeing AH-64 Apaches and Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks in the 2020s.

Advanced Turbine Engine Co. (ATEC), a 50:50 Honeywell/Pratt joint venture, has run both of its HPW3000 demonstrator engines and is “very pleased with the results,” says Jerry Wheeler, ATEC vice president for programs.

General Electric says it is running its GE3000 demonstrators and getting good results, but declines to provide further details.

The GE3000 and HPW3000 are being tested under the Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate’s Advanced Affordable Turbine Engine (AATE) science and technology (S&T) program.

AATE is a precursor to the Army’s Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) to develop and field a more powerful, reliable and lower fuel-burn engine for the AH-64 and UH-60. ITEP is aiming for a 35% higher power-to-weight ratio and 25% lower specific fuel consumption than the current GE T700 engine used in both helicopters.

Despite the budget pressures, support for ITEP within the Army and Congress remains strong, Wheeler says, because of the increased capability and reduced operating costs the new engine offers.

A request for proposals for ITEP is expected in mid-2014. This will be for a competitive technology-development phase that would take both engines through a preliminary design review to a Milestone B decision to begin engineering and manufacturing development (EMD).

At that point, one engine would be selected to proceed into development, ground testing and flight test. Low-rate initial production is scheduled to begin in 2022-23, and the ITEP is intended as a drop-in replacement for the T700 — for forward fit and retrofit.

ATEC ran its first HPW3000 in July, completing a 30-hr. abbreviated durability test before being torn down and inspected with the Army.

The second engine, for performance and sand-ingestion tests, began runs about a month ago.

Performance was measured on the first engine “and we believe we have validated that the customer’s goals are achievable,” Wheeler says. The ITEP EMD goals are carried over largely unchanged from the AATE S&T program, he adds. Early results from the second engine “look good,” he says, with sand-ingestion tests scheduled to continue into next year.

The Army’s goal is to field the ITEP with minimum changes to the UH-60 and AH-64, using the additional power to increase hot-and-high performance while staying within existing transmission limits. Later, gearboxes could be upgraded to take full advantage of the extra power, Wheeler says.