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More power for the US Army helicopters through the ITEP programme

World Defense & Security News - United States
More power for the US Army helicopters through the ITEP programme
In anticipation of the Future Vertical Lift platform, the United States Army has launched the Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP). After ten years of stalemate, the programme will lead to a new more powerful and cost-efficient engine being integrated in the Sikorsky’s Blackhawk and Boeing’s Apache helicopters.
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ITEP falls under the VAATE (Versatile Affordable Advanced Turbine Engines) programme, which started in 1999 as a joint project between the US DoD, NASA, the Department of Energy and the industry. Its goal is to develop advanced multi-use turbine engine technologies with revolutionary improvements in power and affordability. That is to provide engines with increased thrust-to-weight ratio, reduced fuel consumption, life-cycle and development costs.

The manufacturing of the selected engines is expected to start in 2019. Until then the US Army will go through the development phase, which is estimated to cost USD500 million. More specifically, according to the RfP published on 24 September, the US Army will award a maximum of two 24-month preliminary design contracts and at the end of 2018 it will announce the winner of the project. The winning company will then proceed to the engineering, manufacturing and design phase. The successful bidder will build almost 3,000 engines. Of them, 2,135 will be for the Blackhawk helicopters and around 700 for the Apache.

The new engines will provide economies of scale of up to USD1 billion. Based on the lessons learned from the operations in Afghanistan and other geographical areas, the new engines of 3,000 horsepower will offer the capability for the helicopters to fly in hot-and-high conditions.

Up to now, GE Aviation and the Honeywell/Pratt & Whitney teams, and possibly Turbomeca are the main rivals for the programme. Nevertheless, the winner does not take it all. The Future Vertical Lift programme that will follow in the next years will require a new engine and a new market opportunity for the current bidders.