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GE Aviation Well-Positioned for Military Portfolio Growth

June 18, 2019 | by Tony Mathis, President and CEO of GE Aviation’s Military Systems business
Militaries around the world have faced sustainment challenges with their aircraft, generally stemming from issues related to age, maintenance, supply and support issues.

What we’ve seen in the last few years is a concerted effort, particularly by the United States military, to upgrade and improve the number of aircraft available at any given time. Much like what the commercial aircraft industry experienced a decade ago with its portfolio renewal, the U.S. military is going through a thoughtful modernization program based on its needs. GE Aviation is at the center of this in many cases and is extremely well-positioned for continued growth.

That’s why by 2020, we will complete the transition of nearly 1,000 engineers from our commercial programs to our military programs. This has been a three-year process. We have incredibly smart, well-trained, energetic engineers that have worked on our newest products, including our GEnx, CFM* LEAP, Passport and GE9X. As these programs continue to mature, our military portfolio offers new opportunities for our engineers to take their innovative learnings from the commercial side and apply them to our military space.

These next-gen programs offer incredible growth for customer-funded development. This funding helps feed the need for engineers to come over from the commercial side of the business.

Tony Mathis is president and CEO of GE Aviation’s Military Systems business.

As you may know, we recently competed and won the U.S. Army’s Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) campaign for their Engineering and Manufacturing Development Contract (EMD) with the T901 engine. We have powered the Army’s Black Hawk and Apache helicopters for the last 40 years with our dependable T700, racking up more than 100 million flight hours. The T901 carries over the benefits of the T700 engine’s single-spool core architecture and incorporates new technologies such as ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) and additive manufacturing to create new efficiencies, giving it 50 percent more power and 25 percent better fuel efficiency.

Our teams in Lynn, Mass., and Cincinnati, Ohio, have already begun working to deliver the T901 to the Warfighter over the next four decades. This effort will continue to extend across our supply chain. We were awarded a contract worth $517 million for the EMD phase. When we take a step back and look at the full lifecycle of the program, we estimate it to be at least $20 billion dollars.

The ITEP win comes on the heels of another next-gen victory to power U.S. Air Force trainers. Last September, Boeing and Saab emerged as the winning team in the Air Force’s T-X advanced jet trainer contest. The T-X will replace a fleet of more than 400 Northrop T-38 trainers. The T-38, powered by our J85 engine, has been flying for 60 years. GE’s legacy of powering Air Force trainers continues with the T-X, which uses our F404 turbofan. We believe this aircraft could have other missions beyond training, particularly light attack capability for the U.S., as well as international opportunities.

One of GE’s newest military engines is now transitioning into production to support a key aircraft and mission. In 2006, GE’s workhorse turboshaft—the T408—was selected to power the three-engine CH-53K King Stallion, the U.S. Marine Corps’ new heavy-lift helicopter. The T408 gives the CH-53K helicopter the power to carry a 27,000-pound external load over a mission radius of 110 nautical miles in hot weather conditions, nearly triple the external load carrying capacity of current aircraft.

In late 2017, the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) awarded GE Aviation a $143 million Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) contract to build 22 T408 engines. We held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for our new T408 assembly line at our Lynn plant last December and will deliver our first engine to the Navy this summer.

These examples are just some of our recent wins that we are delivering for the Warfighter. The boxes that remain unchecked —applications we are on a mission to win – we believe we have superior products to offer.

These include our XA100 variable cycle engine for next generation combat aircraft and the CF34-10 or Passport engine for the B-52 reengining effort.

The XA100 engine is sized for the F-35. If the Air Force decides to move forward with a block upgrade for the F-35 propulsion system, we have an engine that will bring a tremendous amount of incremental capability to the airplane in terms of thrust, improved fuel consumption and heat capacity.

Last July, GE was awarded a $437 million contract modification from the U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) to execute next generation adaptive propulsion risk reduction for potential air superiority applications. In February, we completed a detailed design review under the U.S. Air Force’s Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP). This effort paved the way for fabricating and testing multiple full-sized adaptive cycle engines, potentially to apply to air superiority applications the Air Force is targeting.

The T408 engine gives the CH-53K King Stallion the power to carry a 27,000-pound external load over a mission radius of 110 nautical miles in hot weather conditions.

GE Aviation also have a dedicated team working an upcoming U.S. Air Force proposal later this year for the re-engining of the B-52 bomber. There’s $65 million in the U.S. Defense budget this year, and we are currently have a contract with Boeing on integration activity.

We have two candidates for reengining, both would do extremely well on the airplane. There’s the CF34-10, which I believe is the gold standard for regional jets in terms of on-wing performance, reliability and low cost. We also have GE’s new Passport engine which is the highest technology engine and has the best specific fuel consumption (SFC) of all the engines in its thrust class. Pending the Air Force’s requirements, we have two engines that represent great opportunities for the B-52.

What else is coming?

As Americas F-15 fleet continues to age, President Trump’s current budget requests for eight F-15EX models. The new F-15EX model is a thoroughly modern update of the F-15 Eagle, equipped with GE’s upgraded F110 engines. We believe there could be an F15EX order north of 144 in the future. From the international perspective, we are seeing increased demand of our F110 on F-15s and F-16s and our F414s on F-18s internationally.

And then, there’s a space that we can’t talk a lot about which we call K-5, our classified military work. There’s a lot of great opportunities in this space and the teams there are doing extremely well, being very competitive.

When you add up all these opportunities, in addition to our current military install base of more than 27,000 engines that is driving the spares part of this business, it’s easy to understand why it’s a really great time to be in the military space.

*CFM is a 50/50 Joint Venture between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines.

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GE Aerospace is a world-leading provider of jet and turboprop engines, as well as integrated systems for commercial, military, business and general aviation aircraft.