Successful collaboration on the CH-53G

When there are heavy loads to be trans­ported, or troops to be landed in hard-to-reach areas, a high-per­for­mance heli­copter is an abso­lute must. For 45 years now, the German Armed Forces have been suc­cess­fully operating the Sikorsky CH-53G trans­port heli­copter. And through­out, MTU Aero Engines and its pre­de­ces­sor com­panies have been at their side to take expert care of engine main­tenance. Here’s to decades of suc­cess­ful collaboration.

11.2017 | Text: Nicole Geffert

Nicole Geffert has been working as a free­lance journalist covering topics such as re­search and science, money and taxes, and education and careers since 1999.

Helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky first devel­oped the CH-53 in the early 1960s for the use of the U.S. Marine Corps, with the first proto­type taking off on October 14, 1964. It was a time of rapidly ex­panding trans­portation re­quire­ments for the German Armed Forces, and the old fleet simply couldn’t keep up. It became clear that the German Armed Forces were going to have to procure a new model, and in the end they opted for the CH-53, powered by two General Electric (GE Aviation) T64 engines. On July 26, 1972, the German Armed Forces of­fi­cially took de­liv­ery of the first “medium-duty trans­port heli­copters” (MTH) from an over­all order of 112 air­craft. Though first de­livered to the Army Avi­ation Corps, the air­craft have been operated by the German Air Force since 2010 fol­low­ing the re­shuf­fle of the German Armed Forces.

From the beginning, MTU was on hand to ensure the safe op­era­tion of the T64 engines, which were pro­duced be­tween 1970 and 1975 in a col­labo­ration be­tween GE Avi­ation and Klöckner-Humboldt-Deutz. In Munich, MTU was chiefly respon­sible for assem­bly and accept­ance testing, and a total of 247 T64 engines were de­livered. “These days, our work on the T64 focuses on main­tenance. In the aver­age year, 20 of these engines come through our doors for tech­nical moni­toring, repair or general over­haul,” says Florian Pulfer, Head of Program Manage­ment for Heli­copter Engines—Service & Main­tenance at MTU.

Adapting to changing operating environments

Over 45 years of service, missions and require­ments have changed. The CH-53G and its T64 en­gines have had to be modi­fied and devel­oped to equip them for extreme weather condi­tions and geo­graphical loca­tions. In close consul­tation with the German Armed Forces, this led to the launch of an up­grade program for the CH-53G. By 2014, 166 engines had been brought up to date in collabo­ration with the German Armed Forces.

The upgrade encom­passed almost a dozen com­po­nents, from the fuel pump and fuel regulator to the com­bustor inserts and gas gen­erator turbine. The up­graded T64-7 became the T64-100, with a maxi­mum power output of 3,229 kilowatts—300 kilo­watts more than its pre­de­cessor. This boost was achieved by installing newly de­vel­oped turbine blades that allowed for an in­creased combustion tem­pera­ture. In addition, the heli­copters were equipped with sand filters to minimize the wear resulting from sand ingestion. The German Armed Forces leapt at the oppor­tunity to collect the last of the 166 up­graded engines directly from MTU in Munich in November 2014—in a CH-53G, of course.

T64 The turboshaft engine with a maximum thrust of 3,229 kilo­watts that powers medium-size transport heli­copters, such as the Sikorsky CH-53, was built be­tween 1968 and 1975. At its Munich site, MTU carried out assembly and accept­ance test runs for this engine manu­factured in cooperation with GE and Klöckner-Humboldt-Deutz (KHD). Today, MTU’s T64 activities focus on on main­tenance. In 2014, the program to upgrade the T64-7 engines to the enhanced T64-100 standard was completed. The Bundes­wehr collected the last T64 from MTU in—what else?—a CH-53G.

100,000 flight hours

The German Air Force plans to continue operating the CH-53 fleet until 2030: “The team at MTU has done every­thing to ensure that the engines will be able to carry out their tasks effi­ciently and reliably well into the future,” says Wolfgang Gärtner, head of Heli­copter Engine Pro­grams at MTU. The best demon­stration of this is the fact that the T64-100 reached the 100,000 flight hours mark on June 18, 2017.

The decades of trustworthy collabo­ration have extended to other military pro­grams, and MTU em­ployees work shoulder to shoulder with German soldiers on engine main­tenance in a variety of collabo­rations. The idea was first devel­oped and imple­mented by MTU to­gether with the Bundes­wehr—the first of its kind. Since the model proved so effective for the Euro­fighter EJ200 engine, it was rolled out to other military engine programs, in­cluding the RB199 Tornado engine and the MTR390 powering the Tiger combat heli­copter. The model saves money and time by pooling re­sources, and ensures the best pos­sible provision of service-ready engines for the troops that need them.

As Klaus Günther, Head of Military Programs at MTU, com­ments: “The German Armed Forces can rely on MTU at all times to provide inno­vative main­tenance and repair tech­niques and personal customer service.”

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