U.S. Army leaders recently told lawmakers that the plan to equip Black Hawks and Apaches with the Improved Turbine Engine Program, or ITEP, remains in the service’s top 10 modernization priorities.

Senior Army leaders testified at a March 8 hearing before the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on Readiness.

The issue has been a key concern and the reason behind proposed funding increases in the upcoming fiscal 2018 defense budget cycle. President Donald Trump has pledged to boost defense spending by $54 billion.

ITEP is part of the service’s Future Vertical Lift Program and designed to significantly increase the lift capabilities of UH-60 Black Hawk and AH-64 Apache helicopters.

“ITEP gives the capacity for one Black Hawk to carry the load of two, pretty phenomenal and obviously some good range,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, deputy chief of staff for Army G-3/5/7.

ITEP will replace the 1970s-era T700 family of engines for the Black Hawk and Apache fleet.

In August 2016, the service issued a pair of agreements for preliminary design review, totaling more than a quarter-billion dollars as part of the acquisition effort, including a $154 million deal with Advanced Turbine Engine Co. — a joint venture of Honeywell International Inc. and United Technologies Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney unit — and a $102 million contract with General Electric Co.

This is the U.S. military’s biggest rotorcraft engine program in years and potentially worth $10 billion to the company selected for the final design. The future engine will be installed in 2,135 Black Hawks made by Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Sikorsky unit and 684 Apaches made by Boeing Co.

“How would acceleration of ITEP research, development and fielding impact the readiness of the Army’s Black Hawk and Apache helicopters?,”  Rep. Trent Kelly, R-Mississippi, asked Anderson.

“We need the Black Hawks to do more,” Anderson said. “What that engine allows us to do is be more efficient. If one helicopter can haul the load of two, just think of what that means to us as you look at lift for air assaults and those type of things.”

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