WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army wrapped up the first round of tests of its Improved Turbine Engine Program engine that will power AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, UH-60 Black Hawk utility helos and the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft.

The first engine to test began with an initial light off on March 22 and has now completed more than 100 hours of run time, the Army said in a July 7 statement.

“The event successfully verified and validated performance models on the Army’s next generation rotorcraft engine,” it said.

The Army selected the ITEP engine, built by General Electric, in February 2019, with the company receiving a $517 million award to build it. GE beat out the Advanced Turbine Engine Company — a Honeywell and Pratt & Whitney team — after a decade of competitive technology development.

While it was initially believed the timeline could be shorter to get the ITEP engine through testing and to fielding, the coronavirus pandemic caused schedule slips that have subsequently affected the FARA competitive prototyping effort which requires the ITEP engine to fly.

The Army selected Bell and Lockheed Martin to competitively build FARA prototypes with the ITEP engines. Both companies report they have nearly completed the build of their prototypes and have been using 3D printed ITEP engines in place of the real ones until the Army delivers those engines ahead of a first flight. The Army and industry competitors still hope to achieve the first flight milestone by the end of 2023.

The new engine provides 3,000 shaft horsepower, which will buy back lift capability, and greater fuel efficiency. It will continue on into a multi-year test campaign to reach full Army qualification, the service said in the statement, to include preliminary flight rating testing that will begin this fall through 2023.

Overall, the engine will log 5,000 hours of testing to achieve full engine qualification.

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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