WASHINGTON -- The CH-47 Chinook helicopter is expected to stay in service for a total of 100 years – until 2064 – outliving both AH-64 Apaches and UH-60 Black Hawks.

Honeywell, the Chinook's T-55 engine provider, has designed an upgraded version that will give the helicopter more power to live out its planned 100 years.

Honeywell's engine has been in the Chinook since it first flew in the early 1960s and the company has upgraded the engine over time, according to Tom Hart, company vice president of defense and space business in the US, said. It began with a 2,000 shaft horsepower engine but it now has a 4,700 shaft horsepower, he added.

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The Army is already taking steps to reclaim some of the Chinook's power it has lost over the years through a set of "Block II" upgrades that include new rotor blades, an electrical system and transmission.

But Honeywell believes beyond Block II is a roadmap to acquire more lift and is anticipating an increased engine power requirement will emerge post Block II, but possibly before Block III upgrades, which are estimated to be integrated around the 2040s, Hart said.

Col. Rob Barrie, the Army's project manager for cargo helicopters, has said that Block II will set the conditions to make future upgrades such as a new engine later on.

"We've challenged our engineers" Hart said, to "come up with a design of the T-55 that will increase its capability but fit within the same nacelle that it does today in such a way that you don't have a major new engine, if you will, or you don't have to tear the aircraft apart."

Honeywell, as a result, designed a new compressor for the engine that will increase power by 25 percent and reduce fuel consumption by 8 percent. The company also redesigned some line-replaceable units for ease-of-use and maintenance ergonomics, making it easier to get at the starter, the gear box and the hydro-mechanical fuel control for repairs and maintenance.

Additionally, Honeywell's approach will allow the Army to upgrade engine power at a fraction of the cost of a new engine, according to Hart. And by making the compressor a kit, engines already fielded can easily be upgraded with the new compressor, he added.

"Budgets the way they are -- [Future Vertical Lift and the Improved Turbine Engine Program] all competing for Army dollars – is why we believe a cost effective engine upgrade program is probably the smartest way to go until the mid-part of the century," Hart said.

The company is planning to test the engine with the new compressor in November or December this year, he said.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

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