GE Rolls-Royce fighter engine team completes STOVL testing

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The GE Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team has successfully completed Short Take Off, Vertical Landing (STOVL) testing on an F136 engine at the state-of-the-art GE testing facility at Peebles, Ohio.

The F136 engine is the most advanced fighter aircraft engine ever developed and will be available to power all variants of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft for the US military and eight partner nations.

All test objectives were reached as planned in the Peebles testing as the engine was configured in a variety of modes, leading to STOVL testing with common hardware systems for the F-35.

Testing also included the advanced controls architecture, which was demonstrated successfully in closed-loop mode operation. This important milestone was reached with the controls system developed under the Fighter Engine Team’s ongoing System Development and Demonstration (SDD) contract.

The Fighter Engine Team’s recent tests were conducted with F136 engines originally produced during the pre-SDD contract. Since then, the powerplants have been updated with new fan, augmentor and controls technology designed during the SDD process.

“These successful tests demonstrate the continued dedication of the Fighter Engine Team to meet its deadlines and stay within budget, while we press forward to deliver our production-configuration engine in a matter of months. Our Peebles test site is unique and allowed the F136 test engine to be put through its paces in all F-35 configurations,” said Jean Lydon-Rodgers, President of the GE Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team.

“The F136 was designed and developed from the beginning to meet the robust requirements for STOVL variants of the F-35 Lightning II. We successfully demonstrated our advanced technology during these recent tests. The design will also allow affordable growth in future, as well as lower maintenance costs,” said Mark Rhodes, Senior Vice President of the Fighter Engine Team.

The first full SDD engine is scheduled to begin testing in early 2009, with first flight in the F-35 to follow in 2010.

The pre-SDD engines have totaled more than 700 hours of test time, contributing significantly to risk reduction in the programme. The testing has included multiple simulated flying conditions, at high-altitude and sea-level, with full afterburner and STOVL operations.

GE - Aviation, with responsibility for 60 percent of the F136 programme, is developing the core compressor and coupled high-pressure/low-pressure turbine system components, controls and accessories, and the augmentor. Rolls-Royce, with 40 percent of the F136 programme, is responsible for the front fan, combustor, stages 2 and 3 of the low-pressure turbine, and gearboxes. International participant countries are also contributing to the F136 through involvement in engine development and component manufacturing.

The new Site 7 at the GE test facility represents a multi-million dollar investment by the company in the F136 development programme. Additional tests also occurred this year at GE’s Evendale facility, as well as the US Air Force Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tennessee.

The Fighter Engine Team also reached another important milestone this year with successful completion of Critical Design Review (CDR), validating the unique design of the engine. The F136 programme remains on schedule and within budget and is fully funded by the US Government for FY 2008. More than 50 percent of the SDD funding for the engine has already been appropriated and the US Government has invested more than $2 Billion in the programme.

The SDD phase is scheduled to run through 2013; the first production F136 engines are scheduled to be delivered in 2012 for the F-35 Lightning II aircraft. This occurs during the fourth lot of F-35 aircraft production, which is very early in the overall aircraft production programme.

About 800 engineers and technicians are engaged in the F136 programme at GE Aviation’s Cincinnati, Ohio, headquarters, and at Rolls-Royce facilities in Indianapolis, Indiana; and Bristol, England.

The F-35 is a next-generation, multi-role stealth aircraft designed to replace the AV-8B Harrier, A-10, F-16, F/A-18 Hornet and the United Kingdom’s Harrier GR7 and Sea Harrier, all of which are currently powered by GE or Rolls-Royce making them the engine powers of choice for the U.S. and U.K. militaries. Potential F-35 production for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marines and international customers, including the UK Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, may reach as many as 5,000 to 6,000 aircraft over the next 30 years.

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