Commentary: The Case for ITEP — Power for the Future

The Case for ITEP — Power for the Future
By Mike Hirschberg, Executive Director
From Vertiflite, November/December 2016 

T700 engine

The latest model Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk and Boeing AH-64E Apache are among the most capable military helicopters in the world. Both are powered by the General Electric T700. First qualified in 1976 at 1,600 shp (1,200 kW), today’s T700-GE-701D produces 2,000 shp (1,500 kW).

Nonetheless, both the Black Hawk and the Apache suffered significant shortfalls in performance in the high altitude and hot temperatures of Afghanistan and Iraq. Both aircraft have grown significantly in weight and drag over the decades, and a step change in engine performance is needed for the aircraft to remain relevant. With retirement of the last of these 3,000 US Army helicopters not likely before 2050, there’s an indisputable need for a new, advanced engine.

The Army’s Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) is the clear answer to that need.

Compared to the T700, ITEP will provide 50% more power at the same weight, a 20% longer engine life, a 25% improvement in specific fuel consumption, and reduced operations and support costs. This means longer range and more time on station, higher payloads, and improved high and hot lift capability.


For the Black Hawk, it would increase the range by a third, reducing the number of refueling stops needed on a mission, and allow a 50% increase in payload at high/hot conditions of 6,000 ft/95°F (1,800 m/35°C). For the Apache, at high/hot conditions, it would mean more than an hour of additional reconnaissance time and a 3,300 lb (1.5 t) increase in payload to its full fuel and weapons load. Today, AH-64 crews have to trade off between full weapons or full fuel. 

To put these improvements in perspective, the Army has run several notional scenarios. In one Army study, 130 soldiers were to be transported in a 121 nm (224 km) air assault at high/hot conditions. The 10 Black Hawks, escorted by two Apaches, could only carry five passengers at a time under those conditions with the T700 engine, and had to stop along the way at a Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) in each direction to gas up. The 12 aircraft had to make three trips each for a total mission time of 480 minutes (8 hours). In contrast, the ITEP-powered Black Hawks and Apaches could conduct the mission in one trip without FARPs, carrying 13 troops in each UH-60M, for a total mission time of 68 minutes. The ITEP-powered mission would use only one-quarter of the fuel and one-eighth of the time — not including the time, fuel, risk and cost of establishing and holding FARPs. Today, CH-47 Chinooks must be used for such high/hot air assault missions. 

GE3000 ITEP engine

General Electric and the Advanced Turbine Engine Company (ATEC) — a joint venture between Honeywell and Pratt & Whitney — were each awarded ITEP preliminary design contracts in August, after extensive testing of their GE3000 and the HPW3000 demonstrator engines in 2012–2014. The two companies proved numerous critical technologies, including advanced internal aerodynamics for improved fuel efficiency and power, hybrid ceramic bearings for improved reliability, and an inlet particle separator to remove contaminants at intake.

ITEP is now the US Army’s number one aviation modernization priority. Although it has taken far too long to start ITEP (see sidebar, “Engine Hat Trick”), the technical and budgetary challenges have been overcome, and the program is on track to complete engine qualification and start production in 2024.

Improvements in fuel efficiency could save millions gallons of fuel every year. Company estimates are that savings in fuel plus lower operating and support costs would more than pay for the development and production of ITEP over time.

With two engines per Apache or Black Hawk, the Army anticipates acquiring more than 6,000 ITEP engines. But ITEP would also be suitable for the thousands of Black Hawks/Seahawks of the other US services, international Hawks and Apaches, and possible civil applications. GE notes that it has sold more than 20,000 T700s (including the commercial CT7) that have accrued more than 100 million flight hours over the past four decades. ITEP could find similar success.

Some pundits have suggested canceling ITEP in order to accelerate the Apache and Black Hawk replacements under Future Vertical Lift (FVL). This, however, ignores the fact that even in the most optimistic case imaginable, the UH-60 and AH-64 will be in US Army service for at least another quarter century and, much more likely, past 2050. And the alternative of not developing ITEP would have far greater long-term costs, including lives and mission capabilities.

America clearly needs the ITEP engine. It’s not a question of either ITEP or FVL — both are essential pillars of future US military might in the 21st Century. 

AH-64 Apaches

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Posted October 28, 2016


Engine Hat Trick:
ITEP, FATE and ACE Programs Advance


Preliminary design contracts for the US Army’s Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) were finally announced on Aug. 22. General Electric received $102M for its GE3000 engine, and the Advanced Turbine Engine Company (ATEC), which is a joint venture between Pratt & Whitney and Honeywell, was awarded $154M for the HPW3000.

ITEP was originally conceived in the late 1990s as the Army’s Common Engine Program (CEP) for the Black Hawk and Apache, but was finally funded in Fiscal 2008 as the Advanced Affordable Turbine Engine (AATE) science and technology effort. GE and ATEC conducted advanced component and rig testing, followed by complete engine testing beginning in 2012. The Army issued the draft request for proposals for the current ITEP effort in late 2014, finally followed by the final RFP on Sept. 23, 2015.

ITEP goals compared to the T700:

  • 50% more power
  • 20% longer engine life
  • 25% improvement in specific fuel consumption
  • Compatible with T700 installation in AH-64 and UH-60

The two contracts run for 24 months, through late 2018 to a preliminary design review; the Army plans a downselect to a single company to complete development, followed by a low rate initial production decision in Fiscal 2024. Although specifically targeted for the UH-60 and AH-64, ITEP could also replace the T700 in other applications, as well as the lighter Future Vertical Lift (FVL) Capability Sets — CapSet 1 and CapSet 2.


In 2011, GE was competitively awarded the Future Affordable Turbine Engine (FATE) program to demonstrate technologies applicable to 5,000–10,000 shp (3,700–7,400 kW)-class turboshaft engines both for FVL (such as the heavier CapSet 3), and for upgrades to current rotorcraft, such as the CH-47 Chinook.

Not just a bigger version of ITEP, FATE is to demonstrate even greater improvements over current engines:

  • 80% improvement in power-to-weight
  • 20% improvement in design life
  • 35% reduction in specific fuel consumption
  • 45% reduction in production and maintenance costs
  • 20% reduction in development cost
  • Compatible with T55 installation in CH-47 Chinook

On Oct. 3, GE announced that it had begun testing of the first full FATE engine; a second engine will begin testing in late 2018. FATE is a brand new centerline design, completed after build-up demonstrations of advanced components and technologies. GE conducted rig testing for its new inlet particle separator, axial-centrifugal compressor, combustor and high pressure turbine.


On Oct. 4, the Army announced that ATEC had received a contract for the development and demonstration of advanced engine capabilities under the Army’s Alternate Concept Engine (ACE) program. This science and technology effort is intended to develop and validate new engine designs that will significantly improve vertical lift, range, speed, payload, survivability and reliability. 

Under the ACE program, ATEC will test an advanced variable speed turbine, as well as other advanced technologies, on the HPW3000. The program is also focused on reducing operational and life cycle costs, and the logistical footprint for both the engine and future rotorcraft.

ACE will demonstrate power turbine speed range of 55–105% at altitudes from sea level to 25,000 ft (7,600 m) altitude. The ACE program also requires an engine life exceeding 6,000 hours.

FVL Applications

An FVL analysis of alternatives (AoA) kicks off this fiscal year to determine what the Pentagon should procure for its next generation aircraft. Studies and analyses have refined the military’s thinking over the past few years, but what is now known as “Capability Set 3” — a size class heavier than the original FVL-Medium size class upon which the current Joint Multi-Role (JMR) technology demonstrators are based — is seen as the first of the five Capability Sets to be put into development.

Capability Set 1 is seen as a replacement for the single-engine OH-58 Kiowa, fulfilling the requirement that the Army had identified for its Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) missions. CapSets 1 and 2 should be well aligned for ITEP or growth-ITEP engines.

Although ITEP may be too small for the aircraft specified in the final CapSet 3 requirements that are generated after the AoA, the advancements envisioned from the FATE and ACE programs provide compelling options for CapSet 3 and beyond.