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Artist rendering of GE Aviation's advanced helicopter engine design for the U.S. Army. GE has made substantial investments in advanced turboshaft engine technology, including the new GE3000 engine for Black Hawk and Apache helicopters.

U.S. Army signs up for GE Aviation advanced helicopter engines

Earlier this year, GE Aviation completed testing its second GE3000 engine in cooperation with the U.S. Army's Advanced Affordable Turbine Engine (AATE) program, which is structured to improve fuel efficiency by 25%, lower acquisition and maintenance costs by 35%, extend engine life by 20%, and increase power-to-weight by 65% compared to GE's T700 engine. Additional testing is now scheduled to continue through 2015 following an extension of the AATE cooperative agreement.

In addition to the AATE announcement, the Army extended GE's development work on the Future Affordable Turbine Engine (FATE) program, which incorporates additive manufactured components as part of future technology demonstrations. The Army and GE will also cooperate on other technological innovations, including the Advanced Variable Speed Power Turbine (AVSPOT), Autonomous Sustainment Technology for Rotorcraft Operations (ASTRO), and Alternative Engine Concepts Design and Analysis (AECDA) programs.

"These Army technology development agreements will help us improve on the performance and reliability of our T700 engine by using first-of-their-kind material and manufacturing technologies like ceramic matrix composites [CMC] and additive manufactured components," said Harry Nahatis, GE Aviation's General Manager of Advanced Turboshaft Programs.

GE spends more than $1 billion on R&D annually to develop engine technologies such as advanced manufacturing methods and materials, cooling effectiveness, and 3-D aerodynamic designs that can be used in future military and commercial engines.

The company boasts that it "leads the jet propulsion industry in CMC technologies." CMC components will be incorporated in the GE3000 turbine. More durable and heat resistant than metal alloys, CMCs allow less cooling air to be diverted into the engine's hot section, thus improving engine efficiency. GE's commitment to CMC entailed more than 1 million hours of testing completed in 2013 alone.

As part of its advanced helicopter engine technology development, GE says it is "aggressively demonstrating CMCs throughout the hot section." GE is running CMCs in the first LEAP engine being developed by CFM International for the narrow-body aircraft market. The LEAP is the first commercial jet engine with hot-section CMC components. In addition to the GE3000 and LEAP engines, GE is running hot-section CMC components in other military demonstrator engines currently on test in Cincinnati. Its CMC "lean laboratory" in Newark, DE, where CMC production methods are being matured, is expanding, while GE is also constructing a $125 million CMC factory in Asheville, NC.

The GE3000 has a single-spool gas generator to create significant maintenance, reliability, and overall cost advantages. For this more-simple design to achieve the AATE goals, GE is applying 3-D aero codes developed for the LEAP, the GEnx (which powers the Boeing 787), and other military demonstrator engines. GE claims to have the industry's highest pressure-ratio compressors for jet engines.

With the 2012 acquisition of Morris Technologies GE Aviation has moved aggressively into additive manufacturing. The LEAP engine has incorporated intricate fuel nozzle tips into its combustor–technologies that required the additive manufacturing process. GE has incorporated additive manufactured components into its AATE and FATE programs.

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