GE Aviation is planning to leverage the modern technology and performance of the GE38 into an engine option for marine applications. The GE38 is one of the most technologically advanced turboshaft engine in its class, and it has been selected to power the Sikorsky CH-53K helicopter in development for the United States Marine Corps. Compared to its T64 turboshaft engine predecessor, the GE38 provides 57% more power within the same envelope, 18% better fuel consumption, and has 63% few parts.
The marine version of the GE38 is identical to its aircraft engine cousin with the exception of some control schedules in the Full Authority Digital Engine Controls (FADEC) software. GE is also looking to leverage this existing technology to offer the United States Navy maintenance commonality, smaller logistics footprint, as well as lower operating and support costs. GE Aviation believes the low-risk GE38 has ideal performance specifications for the U.S. Navy’s Ship-to-Shore Connector (SSC) program and electric power generation for DDG-51-class destroyers.
GE38 development testing is underway at its Lynn, Mass. facility. The engine has established a facility turboshaft horsepower record, eclipsing 7,500 shaft horsepower. Overall development testing features five factory test engines that will accumulate approximately 5,000 hours. To date, more than 300 hours have been logged on two engines. Overall engine performance is excellent and specific fuel consumption and power is better than predicted.
According to Brien Bolsinger, GE Marine general manager, “the GE38 is ideally suited to perform very well as a marine application. The engine was designed with corrosion-resistant materials to operate in harsh marine environments and its modular design – which has sealed oil sumps and accessible gearbox -- provides for ease of field maintenance. In addition, aerodynamics, materials and cooling schemes are inherently designed into the GE38 for durable and efficient operation.”
Bolsinger also states, an engine-mounted FADEC with prognostics and health management improves GE38 performance and reduces maintenance costs. Several pieces of support equipment have been eliminated to help minimize the GE38 engine footprint and to reduce operating and support costs by remaining installed longer.
The U.S. Navy’s new air cushion SSC will transport vehicles, cargo and personnel from ship to shore and/or sea base to shore. The SSC is expected to replace the U.S. Navy’s Landing Craft Air Cushion vessels. A GE38 powered turbine-generator set can also offer an efficient source of electric power when coupled with an electric generator for DDG-51-class destroyers and future U.S. Navy surface combatants (estimated 15% fuel savings over today’s turbine-generator sets).