GE’s adaptive engine for the F-35 finishes testing, preparing for the new phase

WASHINGTON – General Electric Aviation said on Monday that and the U.S. Air Force has finished testing the company’s second adaptive engine, which it hopes the military will adopt for the F-35 jet, and is ready to move to the engineering development stage. and productive.

In March, GE began testing the XA100 prototype – its offer for the military adaptive engine transition program – at the Arnold Engineering Development Complex on the Arnold Air Force base in Tennessee. This was the second phase of testing for the engine, GE said, and was intended to more closely replicate flight conditions and measure results more accurately than the first phase of testing at GE’s Evendale facility. Ohio, in 2021.

GE said in a statement Monday that the completion of testing at the Arnold facility marks the last major milestone of the AETP contract it won in June 2016.

Pratt & Whitney, manufacturer of the F-35’s current F135 engine, received the other AETP contract. Pratt & Whitney calls its development-stage engine the XA101.

“This is the culmination of more than a decade of methodical risk reduction and testing that GE has completed with the Air Force across three different adaptive cycle engine programs,” said David Tweedie, GE vice president of advanced programs in the release. of combat engines. “The engine performance data we collected from the AEDC continued to show the XA100’s transformative capability, also demonstrating a substantial return on investment from the Air Force and taxpayers.

“We are now ready to move to an engineering and manufacturing development program and take this engine to the field with the F-35 before the end of this decade.”

The Department of Defense is considering replacing the F-35A’s F135 engine with a new adaptive model, which uses advanced composites and new technologies such as a third airflow to improve fuel efficiency, thrust, speed. autonomy and heat management. It also includes an adaptive cycle that would allow the engine to adapt to the configuration that would give it maximum thrust and efficiency for a given situation.

The Air Force claims that adding more power and better heat management by adding an adaptive engine to the F-35A would help it handle upgrades for years to come.

However, the adaptive engine would also be expensive, with Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall estimating its development and production costs could reach $ 6 billion.

In a statement to Defense News, Pratt & Whitney said the testing process of its adaptive XA101 engine “stays on track” and on schedule.

Pratt & Whitney reiterated its position that the proposed block upgrade to the F135, which it calls the Enhanced Engine Package, or EEP, would be a better approach for the F-35 than the adaptive engine.

EEP “offers the fastest, most cost-effective and lowest risk path to fully enabled Block 4 functionality for all F-35 operators, saving taxpayers $ 40 billion in lifecycle costs and building on a combat-tested architecture with over 1 million flight hours of reliable operation, “said Pratt & Whitney. “A new engine will cost billions more, introduce unnecessary security risks, damage alliances with major international partners, and are lagging behind.”

Pratt & Whitney said they are committed to continuing to develop adaptive engine technology, but considers it more suitable for the sixth generation Next Generation Air Dominance family of systems expected in the next decade.

Pratt & Whitney, GE and three other companies received contracts from the Air Force last month to prototype adaptive engines for next-generation aircraft.

Tweedie said in a June interview that GE had built and tested two full-size prototypes of the XA100. The initial prototype was first activated in December 2020 at GE’s Evendale plant and testing followed in early 2021.

The second prototype, the one that recently finished testing at Arnold, underwent its first phase of testing at Evendale from August to November 2021. Last fall tests focused on structural and mechanical tests, as well as some tests of the performance.

In June, Tweedie said Arnold’s tests in early spring and then later this summer would yield more accurate data for the development phase of engineering and manufacturing if the program took that step.

Kendall said on Sept. 7 that the Department of Defense must soon choose whether to put an adaptive engine in the F-35A and hopes a decision will come as part of next year’s 2024 fiscal budget proposal.

“I don’t want to keep spending money on an engine that we won’t develop and bring into production,” Kendall told the Defense News Conference in Arlington, Virginia. “We just have to make a decision, decide what to do and move on.”

Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel matters at the Air Force Times and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare on Military.com. He traveled to the Middle East to cover US Air Force operations.

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