The U.S. Army conducted the first flight of the CH-47 Chinook helicopter fitted with a more powerful GE Aviation T408 turboshaft engines.
The first flight of the modified NCH-47D testbed aircraft, powered by T408 engines, occurred at Fort Eustis, Virginia.
The effort to test high-power engines on a CH-47 Chinook is part of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) between Boeing, the manufacturer of Chinook helicopters; General Electric (GE) Aviation, the T408 engine manufacturer; and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center (CCDC AvMC).
The demonstration is using modified T408-GE-400 engines, additively manufactured load bearing drive system components and an off-engine torque measurement system provided by Parker LORD Corporation. This demonstration is to evaluate the feasibility and benefits of higher-power engines while assessing and reducing the technical risks of integrating advanced engines in a Chinook aircraft.
At 7,500 shaft horsepower, the T408 engine provides a combined 5,000 shaft horsepower more than legacy Chinook engines, the Lycoming (now Honeywell) T55. The T408 engines currently power the U.S. Marine Corps’ new CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopters.
The flight demonstrations will be continued to be executed at Eustis’ Felker Army Airfield and the surrounding local flying area and is scheduled to conclude later this year.
Honeywell’s upgraded T55 engine
Honeywell has also entered into a CRADA agreement with the U.S. Army to demonstrate its upgraded T55 turboshaft engine on the CH-47 Chinook. According to Honeywell, the new 6,000-horsepower engine, designated T55-GA-714C, is 25% more powerful and consumes 10% less fuel than the current T55.
Even though not as powerful as the T408, Honeywell claims that its new engine is based closely on the T55 version currently in use and will require almost no airframe changes for its installation as the same intake, exhaust and engine airframe mounts are used. This is not the case of the T408 engines which requires substantial modification to the engine mounts and powertrain for its installation.
General Electric GE38/T408
The General Electric GE38 is a gas turbine developed by GE Aviation for turboprop and turboshaft applications. The U.S. military designation of the turboshaft engine is T408.
Three 7,500 shp-class GE38-1B turboshaft engines (designated T408-GE-400 by the U.S. Navy) provide the power for the U.S. Marine Corps’ new CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter, enabling it to carry a 27,000-pound external load over a mission radius of 110 nautical miles in Navy high/hot weather conditions.
GE is also developing a derivative T408 turboshaft engine which incorporates learnings from the Army’s Future Affordable Turbine Engine (FATE) program and technologies for the larger Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program with the intent to deliver the Army a military-qualified, off-the-shelf engine that meets FLRAA requirements.