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Two of the US Army’s T901 Improved Turbine Engines (ITEs) arrived at Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky business in West Palm Beach, Florida, on 27 June 2024, marking a new phase in the further modernisation of the Black Hawk helicopter.

The T901 engine, which is manufactured by GE Aerospace, will increase the UH-60M Black Hawk’s power by 50% while also improving fuel efficiency and is a critical component of the roadmap to a modernised Black Hawk. The UH-60M’s consequent increase in performance, including lift capability and range, will provide US Army commanders – and ultimately export customers – with more options for planning and executing missions.

“Increased performance and range offered by the T901 are high-value capabilities the army is able to implement on the Black Hawk in a cost-effective way that will not require expensive re-engineering,” Hamid Salim, vice president of Army and Air Force Systems at Sikorsky, was quoted as saying in a company press release. “The ITEP and other enhancement efforts ensure the Black Hawk remains in operation well into the 2070s, securing its position as the army’s foundational tactical air assault and utility aircraft of choice.”

Sikorsky is now positioned to conduct a multi-aircraft test programme to support the US Army’s Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) acquisition milestone schedule. The initial two T901 engines will be installed in one Black Hawk test aircraft for ground runs and flight testing. Meanwhile, aircraft hardware is already on hand to accept two additional T901 engines for installation into a second Black Hawk test aircraft, which will accelerate the test programme.

The US Army’s Utility Helicopters Project Office (UHPO), Aviation Turbine Engines Project Office (ATE PO) and Sikorsky have completed several key programme milestones to prepare for the T901 integration, including: successful completion of the H-60M preliminary design review and critical design review; software formal qualification testing (FQT) for the Integrated Vehicle Health Management System (IVHMS), which is on track to complete the flight management system FQT this summer; receipt and completion of all aircraft test instrumentation required to support the test programme; and receipt of all aircraft ‘A-kit’ hardware required to install two T901s into the H-60M in preparation to execute ground and flight testing.

“We view this as an extension of the work we’ve completed on ITE with our Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) prototype and are even better positioned for a timely and simplified integration of the engine into the H-60M, due to data and insights we’ve retrieved from successful ITE tests completed to date,” said Salim.

Sikorsky received, installed, and successfully conducted engine light-off of the T901 engine in the FARA prototype aircraft. Sikorsky’s ongoing FARA work is specifically designed to collect data relevant to the Black Hawk engine integration to support risk reduction for the Black Hawk flight test programme, although the FARA programme itself was cancelled by the US Army on 8 February 2024.

While Sikorsky’s H-60M modernisation efforts are primarily focused on the ITE, they also encompass adoption of the Modular Open Systems Approach/digital backbone and launched effects. Digital innovations, such as a new sustainment digital twin of the aircraft, are intended to improve safety and mission readiness while reducing costly downtime and unscheduled maintenance.

Representatives from the US Army, GE Aerospace and Lockheed Martin gathered to mark the next step in ITE integration on 27 June 2024 at Sikorsky’s site in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)