The U.S. Air Force tapped GE Aviation to head its Adaptive Engine Technology Development (AETD) program, which will conduct research and develop advancements to current jet-propulsion technologies for combat aircraft — strike aircraft, bombers, and tactical aircraft. Longer flight range and greater fuel efficiency are two critical objectives for the Air Force.

The contract, which is pending final negotiation, has a listed value of $349.7 million, according the USAF.

GE Aviation will conduct the R&D at its headquarters in Evendale, Ohio. Once negotiations are complete and the contract is awarded, GE will share the costs of the program with the Air Force.

GE explained that the project calls for it “to mature a suite of technologies,” including the variable-cycle technology GE Aviation has been developing for several decades, and still is supplying in current USAF aircraft. it detailed that its adaptive engine concept has internal variable features that adjust bypass ratio and pressure ratio to optimize operation for a wide range of flight conditions.

The AETD will succeed the Adaptive Versatile Engine Technology (ADVENT) program that began in 2007 and concludes next year. The new program aims to address the Air Force’s need for jet engines in aircraft being developed for introduction beyond 2020, with significantly longer range, and improved performance and thermal management capability.

GE indicated that AETD would continue to develop technologies already established through the ADVENT program, including an adaptive three-stream fan, third stream-cooled cooling air, and ceramic matrix composite (CMC) materials. ADVENT showed these developments are capable of improving power extraction, thermal management, and inlet recovery, it stated, and to reduce installed drag.

The initial phase of the AETD program will complete the preliminary engine design, test a full annular combustor rig, high-pressure compressor rig, and components using CMCs. The next phase will involve fan rig testing and a full engine core test.

The first test of the new engine may happen as early as 2017, according to GE Aviation

“We are proud to continue to serve the war fighter in the combat segment, and we believe these technologies will provide a new generation of propulsion far superior to current-day systems,” stated Jean Lydon-Rodgers, v.p. and general manager of GE Aviation’s Military Systems Operation.