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Today's Tough Environment Demands Proven Systems Like The T-55 "Charlie"

Today's Tough Environment Demands Proven Systems Like The T-55 "Charlie"

As the Association of the U.S. Army moves to its virtual meeting in Washington D.C., AUSA Now, there's no doubt that military and industry personnel will miss the interactions of the annual celebration of "everything that unites us."

However, what remains real in this time of virtual meetings is the need for systems and hardware designed to perform strong during the toughest of situations.

Among these systems with a proven combat record of more than 12 million battle-tested hours of operations is Honeywell's T55 engine, the powerhouse behind the CH-47 and MH-47 tandem-rotor heavy lift helicopter for more than half a century. Honeywell has delivered more than 6,000 engines over those decades, with 2,500 engines in service today, powering 950 of the eponymous Chinooks in 20 countries. The helicopter is now powered by the 4850-shp T55-714A turboshaft engine.

The future, however, is Honeywell's focus today with its new T55 variant—the 714C. The engine is designed as a drop-in upgrade for the Chinook's engine, provides improved performance, easier maintenance, and builds on a proven legacy of reliability. With Future Vertical Lift and its high-speed rotorcraft staged to set the pace in the future, Honeywell looked to what the needs will be beyond the immediate horizon.

"Our objective has been to add value for the future," says T.J. Pope, Senior Director of Military Turboshaft Engines at Honeywell. "The T55-714C is designed to build on the existing reliability and performance by layering on all-new technology infusion."

Honeywell's 714C will enable the Chinook to a boost of 6000 shaft horsepower, with a roadmap to reaching 7500 shp in the near term, and up to 10,000 shp over the next decade. "Our roadmap, features a core design that could be adapted to other, future aircraft platforms. We're driving advanced manufacturing and materials for continued technology evolution," Pope said.

As Honeywell continues to progress the 714 C with its helo customers, the team also reflects on the rich history of the system—from Vietnam to use in special operations missions in the 1980s to what would be needed during the era of Future Vertical Lift.

"We knew we had to invest ahead of need," explains Pope, "so we looked at every upgrade we've made from the beginning. In the first 20 years, upgrades were made every three to five years, increasing reliability and shaft horsepower."

Which all leads to the most modern version of the T-55 - the 714C. Investing its own funds, Honeywell assessed what the Chinook mission involved today, but also - based on a strong customer perspective - anticipated what would be needed in the future.

"Our architecture remains much the same with the 714C," says Pope, "but we provide easier access to key components, and we've applied modernized technology that improves the power to weight ratio."

The 714C also greatly improves maintainability. Total parts count is significantly reduced, yielding a logistics benefit and decreased complexity. Hard to reach LRUs have now been re-located with the maintainer in mind to facilitate repair and significantly reduce repair time. The use of only standard tools (and no additional training for maintainers) will continue to ensure ease of maintenance.

Pope, a former active-duty Army aviator and now Battalion Commander for the 638th Aviation Support Battalion, Army National Guard, says Honeywell has listened when customers spoke about their challenges, whether while looking at the asymmetric threat of the past decade or deterrence with near-peer adversaries today.

"A cargo aircraft today needs increased lift, speed, range, and reliability. One of the major goals for our customers is to maintain a significant operational and tactical advantage over the adversary—and we're ready," Pope says of the T55-714C. "We've walked hand in hand with the customer to develop what they need and for it to truly be the ideal drop-in replacement for the Chinook."

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