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This article was Originally Published on Sep 15, 2003 in Volume: 2  Issue: 4

Powering the Fleet

Examining the turbine engine market with reason for optimism.

By Babak Minovi

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This second installment of MAT’s survey of the military aircraft engine market focuses on small aircraft including fighters and trainers. UAVs and UCAVs will be covered in the third installment of the series.

In line with the consolidation in the defense industry, the number of small military platforms for gas turbines has declined over the last few decades. The massive development costs for new fighter and trainer programs, and the smaller post-Cold War budgets, has limited the number of new projects available for competition by engine makers. The increased sophistication of new platforms has also reduced the number of aircraft necessary to fulfill the various requirements of the armed forces. All this has led to consolidation and cooperation among military engine makers who do not want to make the mistake of developing an unwanted engine.

Into this generally downbeat environment, post-September 11 and war in Iraq, reemphasis on military spending has injected a measure of revitalization. Up to this point, the increased spending has mostly been directed at upgrades and spares, but actual aircraft order numbers are also following.

GE Aircraft Engines

In contrast to GE Aircraft Engines’ relatively weak position vis-à-vis Pratt & Whitney in the large military aircraft engine market (see MAT 2.3), the company is holding its own nicely in smaller turbines. The fading production numbers for the F110 in the middle of the decade should be replaced with orders for the F136 and F404/F414 turbines and will keep the GEAE assembly lines humming.


The F110 program, introduced in 1979, set out to develop a low-bypass turbofan engine for military use that would generate around 30,000 lbst of thrust. Initially based on the F101 platform, the turbine has found a home in the F-14, F-15 and F-16 fighter families. The newest variant, the F110-GE-132, is a 36,000-lbst thrust uprated version of the F110 intended for the F-16C/D Block 60 program. The -132     utilizes wide-chord-blisk and radial afterburner technology and is the highest-thrust engine for the F-16.


The alternate engine for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the turbofan, is being developed under a 60/40 workshare arrangement with Rolls-Royce. The program was initially set to power the Lot 4 and Lot 5 aircraft at the end of the decade and participate in a competition with the Pratt & Whitney F135 for further contracts. Budget issues have currently cast a cloud on the original plan and the future of the program remains unclear. The turbine may also compete with the F135 for future orders of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.


Most closely associated with the various incarnations of the Boeing F-18 program, the 17,000-lbst F404 and its more powerful sibling, the 22,000-lbst F414 are also the favored engines for a number of non-U.S. military aircraft. After making appearances on the Dassault Rafale, and Gripen (as the Volvo RM12), the F404/F414 has been selected to power the Korean  T/A-50, the Indian LCA and the proposed European Mako trainer. Although the actual value of orders from these programs is subject to debate, the turbine has certainly found a sweet spot in power demand in the small, supersonic fighter/trainer market. The F414-GE-400 variant will account for most of the deliveries of the family for the rest of the decade as the power plant for the F/A-18E/F. The turbine also powers the Lockheed Martin F-117 stealth fighter.


Introduced in 1960, the J85 was designed as a power plant for trainer and small fighter aircraft. Through the end of the program in 1988 over 16,000 units had been produced. The majority of the J85 turbines were installed on the Northrop   F-5, and its derivative, the T-38 Talon trainer. The J85 series turbojets produced 3,000 to 5,000 lb of thrust. The USAF currently plans to keep the T-38A and its engines in service through 2040.


Currently serving as the power plant for the Fairchild Republic A-10 warthog, the 9,000- lbst TF34, the engine is closely related to the very successful civil CF34 turbofan. A number of new re-engine programs for the A-10 have been proposed by GE, but none have been funded as of this date.

Pratt & Whitney

Despite the inroads made by GEAE, the selections of the F119 and F135 as the primary power plants of the F-22 Raptor and F-35 JSF solidified Pratt & Whitney’s position as the leading military turbine manufacturer in the world. The company will likely experience a relatively quiet period between the expected drop in F100 production and the full ramp-up of manufacturing for the newer models.


Development of the F100 series engine began in 1968 when both P&W and GEAE entered a USAF contest to power the new McDonnell Douglas F-X fighter (later renamed the F-15 Eagle), which the company eventually won in 1970. Along with the F-15, the F100 would also serve as the power source for the majority of the Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters, including aircraft for the export market. The F100’s power output ranges from 23,000 lbst to 29,000 lb of thrust. A number of upgrade programs to extend the life and reduce maintenance costs for the F100 are being offered to and installed for customers.


Designed for high reliability and stealth as well as impressive power output, the F119 is currently the sole engine used on the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. A unique feature of the 35,000-lbst turbofan is the two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzle which enhances the aircraft’s short takeoff and landing capability. The F119 may see competition from the F135 and the GE F136 in future versions of the F-22.


A derivative of the F119, the P&W F135 is the 35 to 40,000 lbst engine selected for the early lots of the F-35 JSF. The engine will compete with the GE F136 for later tranches of the aircraft. The version of the engine to be used on the vertical/short takeoff and landing model of the F-35 will be connected via a transmission to lift fans. Rolls-Royce brings its lift fan capabilities gained from work on the Pegasus/Harrier to the project as a subcontractor.

Pratt & Whitney Canada

A closely held subsidiary of Pratt & Whitney, PWC is the supplier of the most popular civil turboprop in the world for a number of military applications.


The 500 eshp to 1,500 eshp PT6-A turboprop powers a wide range of utility and trainer aircraft for the world’s armed forces. The Pilatus PC-9/Raytheon T-6A Texan II trainer is the most recent and largest current aircraft using the PT6-A and is in service with the U.S. Air Force and Navy as well as a number of foreign countries. Other military applications include the Super Tucano and the KAI KT-1. A large number of PT6-As also serve as power plants for various utility military turboprop aircraft around the world.


EUROJET Turbo was formed specifically in 1986 to develop the power plant for the Eurofighter Typhoon. The company is jointly owned by Rolls-Royce (36 percent shareholder), MTU (30 percent), FiatAvio (20 percent) and ITP (14 percent). Partner companies each supply discrete modules to the central factory in Munich where they are assembled and tested.


The EJ200 was initially developed as the engine for the Eurofighter Typhoon and first flew in 1995. The 20,000-lbst turbofan was proposed for a number of other applications without any success. Early plans for thrust vectoring were scrapped due to lack of funding. An un-augmented, 14,000-lbst version of the engine has been proposed for use in light supersonic jets.


Due to the advanced age of its Spey, Pegasus and Viper engines, a large portion of Rolls-Royce’s active participation in the small military aircraft market is currently by its subsidiaries or though revenue sharing arrangements with U.S. manufacturers (see GE F136 and P&W F135).


Known as the F405 by the U.S. military, the Adour is manufactured by Rolls-Royce’s 50/50 joint venture company, Rolls-Royce Turbomeca (RTM). The 6,000-lbst turbine powers the BAE Systems Hawk trainer, its sibling the Boeing T-35A Goshawk and the SEPCAT Jaguar. An augmented version producing 8,000 lbst is used in the Jaguar. Current production is comprised of upgrade variants plus a number of remaining deliveries for the Goshawk, although the chance of the Hawk line being restarted is always there.


Produced by Rolls-Royce GmbH, the 13,000-lbst turbofan mostly known for its use in ultra-long range business jets will power the Nimrod 2000 ASW aircraft. Problems involving the complicated wing/engine arrangement have delayed the program for the time being.


The engine is easily identified by its unique thrust-vectoring design and is the sole power plant for the BAE Systems Harrier and its American cousin, the McDonnell Douglas AV-8B. Active production of the 22,000-lbst engine has ceased, although a number of spares and miscellaneous orders will keep the production line going for a few more years. The Pegasus is also known as the F402.


Also known as the RB168 in its military form, the most common active applications for the Spey are the BAE Systems Nimrod and the AMX trainer/light attack aircraft. The 12,000-lbst turbine was also installed in some variants of the F-4 Phantom and A-7 Corsair.


The 4,000-lbst Viper has been installed in a number of small military jets, most recently the AerMacchi MB339.


By far the largest portion of Snecma’s participation in the military aviation market is through its 50 percent stake in CFM International and its CFM56 turbofan, but the company is also an active player in the small aircraft engine segment. Besides its share of the RTM Adour through wholly owned Turbomeca, Snecma has a number of entrants in the competition for the light to medium fighter jet market.


Co-developed by Snecma and Turbomeca starting in 1969, over 1,300 units of the engine have been produced. The 3,000-lbst Larzac famously powers all variants of the AlphaJet trainer. The Larzac has recently been selected by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) to power their HJT-36 trainer aircraft with deliveries expected by 2005.


The M53 first entered service as the M53-P2 in 1985. The M53’s output is in the 19,000 lbst to 21,000 lbst class. The engine’s main applications are the Dassault Mirage 2000 and 4000 fighters. Although with the introduction of the Rafale, any new sales of the aircraft are unlikely, pending deliveries and spares are expected to continue for a number of years.


The 17,000-lbst to 20,000-lbst M88 was designed completely in-house by Snecma Moteurs. The engine features state-of-the-art technology such as single-crystal blades and a non-polluting combustion chamber. The M88’s primary application is the various versions of the Dassault Rafale multirole fighter.  The more powerful variants of the engine have been proposed for installation in the Gripen and any Mirage 2000 revivals.


A 40/40/20 joint venture between Rolls-Royces, MTU and FiatAvio, Turbo-Union produced the RB199 engine for the Panavia Tornado.


Initially flown in the early 1970s, the 19,000-lbst RB199 powers the Tornado fighter, which is an important, but aging segment of the European air defense forces. The sole export customer, Saudi Arabia, also operates the aircraft.


A quick look through the above list of turbines highlights the fact that many of the programs are in the final stages of production—If they haven’t yet halted. The immensely high costs and technical sophistication of building competitive fighters today means that fewer and fewer platforms are available for any small military turbines to compete for. The U.S. engine makers, Eurojet, Snecma and (through equity or revenue participation) Rolls-Royce seem to be concentrating their efforts on a handful of turbines. The versatility and power of the existing options means that any new platform would have little problem finding a suitable engine, but the lack of competition may end up hurting customers in the long term.

We will take a closer look at the military engine market for rotorcraft in the next installment of this series.

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