GE Rolls-Royce fighter engine team completes F136 high-altitude tests

Thursday, 20 March 2008

The GE Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team has successfully completed a high-altitude afterburner testing program at the US Air Force Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tennessee, including common exhaust hardware for the F-35 Lightning II aircraft.

The F136 engine is a 40,000+ lb. thrust, combat engine that will be available to power all variants of the F-35 for the US military and eight partner nations.

All test objectives were reached as planned using an engine configured with Conventional Takeoff and Landing (CTOL) and Short Takeoff Vertical Landing (STOVL) common exhaust systems. The engine configuration included a production-size fan and functional augmentor allowing several run periods to full afterburner operation.

A second F136 engine continues testing at a unique GE test facility in Peebles, Ohio, including both CTOL and STOVL controls technology test missions. Testing began on schedule at Peebles and all of the CTOL test objectives were successfully accomplished in mid-March. STOVL testing will continue over upcoming weeks at the new GE test facility, which represents a multi-million dollar investment by the company.

Both the common hardware testing at Arnold Engineering Development Center and the ongoing Peebles tests mark important milestones for the F136 program. The two engines were originally produced during the pre-System Development and Demonstration (SDD) contract. Since then, the powerplants have been updated with new fan, augmentor and controls technology designed during the SDD process.

The pre-SDD engines have totaled more than 600 hours of test time, contributing significantly to risk reduction in the program. The first full SDD engine is scheduled to begin testing by early 2009, with first flight in the F-35 to follow in 2010.

The Fighter Engine Team recently completed a successful Critical Design Review, validating the unique design of the engine. The F136 program remains on schedule and within budget and is fully funded by the US Government for FY 2008. More than 50 percent of the System Development and Demonstration funding for the engine has already been appropriated and the US Government has invested more than $2 Billion in the program.

“The Fighter Engine Team continues to deliver exceptional performance and grow confidence in the F136 engine through a detailed and extensive testing regimen. Based our successful test results and the recent completion of our Critical Design Review, we’re on track to begin testing the F136 production-configuration in just a few months,” said Jean Lydon-Rodgers, President of the GE Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team.

“The F136 employs the most advanced, proven technologies, and the design – which is optimized for the F-35 Lightning II – will provide affordable growth and lower maintenance costs. The F136 will benefit the F-35 program with affordable technology and drive down costs,” said Mark Rhodes, Senior Vice President of the Fighter Engine Team.

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 program.

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

  1. GE - Aviation, with responsibility for 60 percent of the F136 program, 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 program, 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.
  2. 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 GR.7 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 5000 to 6000 aircraft over the next 30 years.
  3. The F136 will be fully interchangeable for the F-35. The F136 was the first F-35 engine to offer a single engine configuration for all three versions of the aircraft: STOVL for the U.S. Marine Corps and U.K. Royal Navy, Conventional Takeoff and Landing (CTOL) for the U.S. Air Force, and the Carrier Variant (CV) for the U.S. Navy.
  4. With the infusion of best practices and improved technology, the F136 is expected to exceed requirements for maintainability, affordability, and reliability for all F-35 variants, while enhancing the ability of the U.S. services and international partners to cooperate in joint coalition operations.

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