Accelerated Schedule Slips For New FARA Turboshaft

Credit: GE

A funded effort to deliver a new turboshaft engine for the U.S. Army up to 12 months early has eroded to yield about half to one-fourth of the planned time savings, a GE Aviation official said Oct. 13. 

The official spoke at the Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington.

The Army included financial incentives in a 2019 contract award of $517 million to GE to accelerate delivery of the first T901-GE-900 to testing by up to a year, to June 2021. 

As the program stands now, GE expects to achieve the first engine to test (FETT) milestone at the end of this year or early next year—or roughly 3-6 months earlier than the original delivery schedule, said Mike Sousa, GE’s business development leader for advanced turboshaft engines. 

GE used the financial incentives to invest in machines and technology to speed up manufacturing of the first engine by 12 months. Those investments have performed as expected, but GE encountered problems with other equipment that delayed progress, Sousa said. The COVID-19 pandemic also caused disruptions, forcing the team to complete a virtual critical design review event with the Army in 2020. 

About 99% of the hardware for the first engine has been delivered, Sousa added. The components are now having instrumentation installed before GE can begin the final assembly process, he said. 

The Army’s schedule calls for the program to reach a provisional flight release milestone in late 2022. 

The release would allow GE to build and deliver the engines that will power both contenders for the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA). The competitive prototypes for the Sikorsky Raider X and Bell 360 Invictus are on track to complete first flight in fiscal 2023, with a contract award to one company coming a year later. 

The T901 is still on track to be ready to support the FARA fly-off, Sousa said. If there were any further delays, the Army could switch to the 2,600-shp-rated YT706-GE-700 for the fly-off. 

Meanwhile, the Army also plans to use the T901 to re-engine the Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk and Boeing AH-64E Apache. First flight of a T901-powered UH-60M is scheduled in 2022, with the AH-64 following two years later.

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.