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  • GE Brings Good Things To Hornet, Gripen
    Posted by Bill Sweetman 12:53 PM on Apr 21, 2011

    If the Pentagon leadership is successful in its goal of shutting dwon the Joint Strike Fighter's F136 alternate engine program (and may I add that if they brought such zeal and sense of purpose to bear on other issues, the world might be a better place, but I digress) there will be an important consequence:  the JSF program will acquire a new and powerful enemy, in the form of General Electric.

    Evidence of this trend may be coming to light. At yesterday's roll-out of the 500th Super Hornet/Growler, Boeing program vice-president Kory Mathews confirmed that the F414 Enhanced Performance Engine would be the baseline for the company's offer to India. The idea of the engine has been around for some time, but GE is clearly ready to commit the funds necessary to make the engine a reality.

    More details of the engine have been disclosed. It has a new core, based on demonstrations conducted with US government funds in 2004 and 2006, and a redesigned fan and compressor. A third test engine was run in 2010. All the new components use three-dimensional aerodynamics -- that is, more swept, twisted blades -- using technology that has been used on other engines since the F414 was designed 20 years ago.

    blog post photo

    GE rates the new components at a technology readiness level (TRL) of 6 (indicating successful prototype testing) and notes that it has developed 17 new or derivative engines successfully from the same TRL.

    The new engine offers up to a 20 percent thrust boost. That would take the EPE up to 26,500 pounds of thrust, giving it the best thrust/weight ratio of any fighter engine -- almost 11:1. Alternatively (an option understood to be attracting interest at Saab) the EPE could be delivered with a 10 percent uprate and very generous temperature margins, extending its life and reducing fighter life-cycle costs.

    The EPE "will not make much difference at an air show", says Boeing chief test pilot Ric Traven, but dramatically improves the fighter's performance at high speed and altitude, halving supersonic acceleration times. For the Gripen, the extra thrust would translate into further-improved supercruise (supersonic level flight without afterburner) capability.

    Tags: ar99, tacair, hornet. gripen

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