Members of industry are partnering with the Army to test high-powered engines on a CH-47 Chinook.
The Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center routinely incorporates innovative technology solutions, cutting-edge science and technology, and partnerships with academia and industry to provide rapid, cost-effective solutions to complex aviation and missile challenges.
As part of a cooperative research and development agreement, the center’s Aviation Development Directorate-Eustis is working with the Boeing Company and GE Aviation 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.
Currently, no Army engine-upgrade programs exist for the CH-47 series aircraft, neither does this effort indicate selection of the T408-GE-400 as a future engine for the aircraft.
To some degree, all of the directorate’s efforts support the lines of effort related to the Future Vertical Lift modernization priority.
The five-year project, which began in 2015 and will conclude in fiscal 2020, aims to identify and reduce cargo-class engine integration risks in support of potential future capability and to evaluate engine integration and performance through a flight demonstration on a modified NCH-47D testbed aircraft. NCH refers to a permanently modified test article.
Until about a year ago, the directorate team has been in the technical development phase with industry partners to determine how to integrate the T408-GE-400 on a legacy Boeing NCH-47D airframe and take it safely to flight using the Aviation and Missile Command-delegated ADD-E local experimental test flight airworthiness release authority.
“Throughout the effort, we’ve been able to leverage the whole ADD-E team’s local capability,” Maj. Zachariah Morford, ADD-E T408 project manager and experimental test pilot, said. Included in that team is the engines and platforms science and technology division; technical support division, including the engineering design and analysis, fabrication, and instrumentation branches, and the flight test division with its experimental flight support.
“This will be the first time in decades that Army aviation has put a new engine with a different footprint onto a legacy aircraft,” Morford said. “There’s also several first-to-fly technologies that are going on to this aircraft. We are going to fly with some load-bearing additively manufactured parts, which will be the first time that’s happened for aviation.”
He added that this demonstration will also feature the first off-engine torque measurement system, which means rotational force will not be measured by a part within the engine itself. The torques will be measured by a connected drive shaft with a system provided by LORD Corporation.
“This is has been a great collaboration with our industry partners, and is right in line with our aviation development core competencies here at ADD-E,” Col. Malcolm Cornish, ADD-E director, said. “This effort is not solely focused on current fleet impacts, but informs the Army aviation community on potential requirements and limitations for the Future Vertical Lift efforts.”
Ground testing is scheduled to begin in October and run for six weeks with 25 hours of flight tests planned immediately afterward.