As it works to get its Future Vertical Lift (FVL) advanced rotorcraft program off the ground, beginning by flying two Joint Multi Role (JMR) air-vehicle demonstrators in 2017, the US Army is turning its attention to what could power replacements for its Black Hawks and Apaches from the mid-2030s onwards.
Sikorsky/Boeing's JMR/FVL concept
To that end, the Army's Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD) is soliciting proposals for conceptual design and analysis of a future Advanced Concept Engine (ACE). This will look more broadly than the FVL Medium requirement to replace the UH-60 and AH-64 and study engines in the 40shp to10,000shp range to power platforms ranging from small unmanned aircraft to large cargo rotorcraft.
The Alternative Engine Conceptual Design and Analysis effort is looking for "adaptive and/or alternate engine/power system concepts" offering "significantly improved" specific fuel consumption (sfc) and power-to-weight ratio. AATD is putting emphasis on technologies that "flatten the sfc curve" across the power range, minimize installation losses, and are optimized for "non-conventional, higher speed rotorcraft".
The Army is already planning to develop a new 3,000shp turboshaft to be available late this decade to re-engine the UH-60M and AH-64E, now powered by the 2,000shp T700-701D. The Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) would be a follow-on to AATD's Advanced Affordable Turbine Engine demonstrators, run by Honeywell/Pratt & Whitney (HPW3000) and General Electric (GE3000).
But the ITEP engine will not be ready in time to power the JMR 230kt-cruise rotorcraft demonstrators in 2017, and likely not big engine to power the FVL Medium utility rotorcraft planned to replace the Black Hawk beginning around 2035. So it looks like the ACE program is intended to result in a powerplant for FVL Medium, which is planned to enter development in the early 2020s.
The ACE demonstrator program is scheduled to begin in FY2017. Bidders must provide a technology roadmap showing how they would get to TRL 4 (component demos) by then, on internal and funded R&D, and how they would get to TRL 6 (ready for development) by the end of the system-level demonstration program. But the program starts small, with only $1.2 million budgeted for multiple18-month concept design and analysis studies.