GE/Rolls-Royce team completes F136 high-altitude tests

  • 30-Jun-2008 07:34 EDT
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The first F136 engine undergoes developmental altitude tests at Arnold Air Force Base in Tennessee.

The GE/Rolls-Royce fighter engine team has completed a high-altitude afterburner testing program at the U.S. Air Force Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) in Tennessee, including common exhaust hardware for the F-35 Lightning II aircraft.

The F136 is a 40,000-lb-thrust alternate fighter jet engine that will be available to power all variants of the F-35 for the U.S. military and its eight partner nations.  The F-35 is a stealth multi-role fighter with both air-to-ground and air-to-air capabilities that is designed to meet warfighting needs, including survivability, precision engagement capability, and mobility.

All test objectives were met 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. The STOVL version is scheduled to replace the U.S. Marine Corps’ AV-8B Harrier, the Royal Navy’s Sea Harrier, and the Royal Air Force’s GR7 Harrier.

“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,” said Mark Rhodes, Senior Vice President of the fighter engine team. “The F136 will benefit the F-35 program with affordable technology and drive down costs.”

A second F136 engine is being tested at GE’s facility in Peebles, OH, including both CTOL and STOVL controls technology test missions. Testing began on schedule, and all of the CTOL test objectives were accomplished in mid-March. STOVL testing remained under way at the time of publication.

Both the common hardware testing at AEDC and the ongoing tests at Peebles mark 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 a new fan, augmentor, and controls technology designed during the SDD process.

The pre-SDD engines have totaled more than 600 h of test time. 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 critical design review, validating the design of the engine. The F136 program remains on schedule and within budget. It is fully funded by the U.S. government for FY2008. More than half of the SDD funding for the engine has been appropriated, and the U.S. 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,” said Jean Lydon-Rodgers, President of the GE/Rolls-Royce fighter engine team. “Based on 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.”

The SDD phase is scheduled to run through 2013; the first production F136 engines are scheduled to be delivered in 2012.

About 800 engineers and technicians are involved with the F136 program at GE Aviation’s Cincinnati, OH, headquarters, and at Rolls-Royce facilities in Indianapolis, IN, and Bristol, England.

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