Turboshaft truce in Europe
The threatened dominance of US turboshafts in Europe has forced manufacturers in France, Germany, and England to offer a range of turboshafts under one banner. Italy, however, remains out in the cold. Julian Moxon reports.
,he announcement on April 19 that * three of Europe's principal engine -"- manufacturers, Turbomeca, RollsRoyce, and MTU, were to offer the TM333, MTM385, and RTM322 under one banner points the way to a unified stance against products from the USA. The deal is a major step towards cohesion in the fight against the threatened dominance of engines such as General Electric's T700, the highly successful midrange turboshaft standard on US Army helicopters. The arrangement comes at a time when the future for European helicopters looks more promising (see page 83). The PAH2/HAP/HAC-3G Franco-German armed helicopter is now a firm programme, and NH-90 the five-nation European transport helicopter, RTM322-powered EHlOls are also on the cards, and the single-engined RTM322/A129 Mangusta is under discussion. Under the agreement the three companies will develop turboshafts and their derivatives spanning the 850 s.h.p.-2,100 s.h.p. power range. One of the more obvious benefits will be to avoid duplication in research and development, particularly as small turboshafts are tending to follow very similar design trends. The cross-fertilisation of ideas should also lead to new technology being incorporated at an earlier stage in the design process. Responsibility for each engine remains with the parent companies, but local manufacture of a proportion, or all, of any engine will be possible if it is needed in sufficient quantity for a national helicopter programme, or for export. Local manufacture may be impractical, however, and so there are provisions in the agreement for offset arrangements to balance the books. There is, as yet, no rigid structure covering such occasions, so each deal will be handled on its merits. Marketing of all engines will be carried out across the board, each company keeping an eye open for opportunities for all three engines, or their derivatives. Discussions are taking place now on a permanent structure to supervise the organisation and development of the collaboration. The three hope to bring Italy (until recently an RTM322 partner) into the fold as well, but the issue is complicated by the fact that there are three Italian companies with turboshaft capability—Fiat, Alfa Romeo, and Piaggio. Two of these, (Fiat and Alfa Romeo) are already licensed to produce T700 components, while Piaggio licensebuilds the Rolls-Royce Gem. Time is running short for an agreement with Italy, because General Electric would dearly like to consolidate its long established European foothold with a 2,700 s.h.p. growth version of the T700, which would meet the RTM322 head on. The common denominator throughout the tripartite agreement is Turbomeca, France's small engines giant nestling in the lee of the Pyrenees, still ruled by the indomitable 89-year old Joseph Szydlowski. In its 47 years of existence, Turbomeca has produced over 21,000 turbine engines, either of its own design or under licence, and has doggedly introduced two brand new engines, the 500 s.h.p. TM319 and 850 s.h.p. TM333, during a period when the helicopter industry has been at its lowest ebb. Turbomeca is now, in fact, the only company in the Western world with involvement in turboshafts spanning the full power range to 3,000 s.h.p. The French manufacturer, solely responsible for the TM333, and with a half share in the MTM385 (with MTU), and RTM322 (with Rolls-Royce), looks well placed to reap the maximum dividends from the deal. Its loyalties are not confined to Europe alone, however, for it also has a year-old marketing agreement with General Electric, for installation and support of the TM333 in US helicopters. Beyond Gem and Gnome Rolls-Royce's recent turboshaft fortunes have centred on the 900-1,200 s.h.p. Gem, the three-shaft engine introduced on the Lynx, and chosen for the Westland 30 and Agusta A129. The Gem is a 16-year-old design, and around 1,000 examples have been sold—not enough to keep the Leavesden factory busy over the years. Rolls-Royce has had little success selling the Gem 60, latest and most powerful marque, although applications are still being pursued. Under the agreement, however, it must stay clear of competition with the MTM385. Leavesden's other turboshaft programme is the 1,500 s.h.p. Gnome licence-produced variant of General Electric's T58. Over 2,000 Gnomes have been built since it first ran in 1959. Production of the engine is being doubled to meet needs for Sea King and another, unnamed, application. MTU has no production turboshaft programme of its own, but has licence manufactured a number of engines, notably the Allison 250-C20B for the MBB BO105. The company's technological strength has grown considerably in recent years, and MTU has a successful alliance with Pratt & Whitney, on the PW2037 and PW4000 turbofans. It is also one of the Turbo-Union partners in the RB.199, and is one of the five Inter117

FLIGHT International, 1 June 1985

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful