S&H Talks to Michael D WILKING, VP Business Development for Military Systems at GE Engines, on the status of their activities in Turkey and how they are positioning themselves for the TF-X Programme.
S&H: Can we please start with GE Aviation today?
M. WILKING: First, I would like to underline that GE Aviation is, and for quite some time has been, the largest producer of aircraft engines in the world. I would also describe us as a business undergoing transition.
As a Corporation, GE has redoubled its focus on industrial businesses. To answer this challenge, we have intensified efforts to bolster our product portfolio and are aggressively targeting the industrial internet, where we are going after “Big Data”.
As you can imagine, both commercial and military aircraft generate a tremendous amount of data in any given flight. The ability to take that data and turn it into something that brings value to the customer in terms of how it's performing, reducing life-cycle costs etc., is transformational.
S&H: How are you approaching the big data initiative?
M. WILKING: We have created an operating system that provides the structure to develop and launch applications in collaboration with our customers. It is called “Predix” and will allow us to utilize Big Data to improve the performance and cost effectiveness of our products and services.
The GE Store is a concept that allows any of the industrial businesses -- whether it’s Aviation, Oil & Gas, healthcare, or others in the portfolio -- to access Big Data for products, software, or analytics. It provides another method to capitalize on the breadth of our entire corporation to develop the very best solutions for our customers.
S&H: And that data is from everything from platforms to small or large facilities?
M. WILKING: Everything. Since our engines are flying in the air, floating on the water or generating power on the ground, it covers a broad spectrum. This really is a transformation that's been going on over the past several years.
S&H: How will this affect GE Aviation?
M. WILKING: It will affect both the commercial and military engine businesses tremendously. Whether applied to material sciences, analytics, aerodynamics or what have you, we'll be able to use Big Data to continually improve not only existing platforms, but also apply lessons learned to the next generation of products.
What we offer is that broad experience of not just working with one customer, but many who operate in different and diverse environments around the world.
S&H: Can you provide this service to platforms with Non-GE engines?
M. WILKING: Absolutely. That's the beauty of the Predix Platform. It's not just data format specific, so it doesn't just have to be for GE engines...it can be for any equipment in the fleet.
S&H: Can you provide some perspective on GE Engine's military footprint today?
M. WILKING: In a broad perspective, GE Aviation is comprised of commercial and military engine programs. Our commercial engine business has more than 25,000 engines currently in service. Our military engine business boasts approximately the same number.
S&H: One of the programmes keeping GE Engines busy these days in the S Korean KF-X programme. What is the status?
M. WILKING: As you know, Korea has announced they are focusing on a twin-engine variant. We are competing with our F414 engine. We have great presence in S Korea, as we do in Turkey, and we work very well with KAI.
S&H: Does GE Engines have a JV in S Korea, in the lines of TEI?
M. WILKING: We have “industrial partners” that we cooperate with not only in S Korea, but in other strategic markets. But, the TEI type of “joint venture,” where we have a significant equity investment, is a unique, one-of-a kind arrangement.We expect there will be a decision this year and feel confident about our position and the solution we are offering.
S&H: What can you tell us about GE Military Engines in Turkey?
M. WILKING: Today GE Military Engines boasts more than 1,350 engines in Turkey, from the F110 on the F-16s to the J79 on the F4s and the J85 on the F-5. In the turboshaft/turboprop arena, we power both Cobras and the Blackhawks [T700 engine] and the CT7 on the CN-235s [turboprops]. We also enjoy a great presence in the marine sector with our LM2500 Gas Turbines.
S&H: What about the Depot Level Maintenance [DLM] for those engines?
M. WILKING: Today the Air Force HIBM overhauls a lot of the turbofan and turboshaft/prop engine fleets. In parallel, TEI has the same capabilities and they have supported GE Engines for offloading Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul [MRO] work on both F110 and T700 engine lines.
S&H: Was the TEI involvement in the F110 and the T700 for local customers or international?
M. WILKING: Both actually. We have customers around the world that do not have their own indigenous capability who come to us as the Original Equipment Manufacturer [OEM]. In those cases, we work with them and can offer several viable options. With good Government-to-Government relations, customers are comfortable with us bringing the engine in to TEI/Turkey. A recent example occurred when the F110 engines of the Royal Saudi Air Force were overhauled by TEI.S&H: The TUHP programme is going to create important opportunities for TEI.
M. WILKING: Yes! TEI will become a Regional Centre for the T700 and it will also be the first time a TEI name plate will be on the engine. Thus, TEI will produce, deliver and support the T700. Consequently TEI will be the preferred MRO for those customers in Turkey, and perhaps with other customers as well.
When you consider the number of T700 engines around, over 20,000 produced since 1978, it is easy to see the potential.
S&H: What do you see as relevant to Turkey beyond the engine?
M. WILKING: We started our joint venture with TEI over 30 years ago with 12 sets of low-tech F110 manufactured parts. Under this collaboration and since then, we've been able to grow that capability-- not only in manufacturing but also in high-tech production and design. Today, TEI is one of our premier manufacturing Centres of Excellence for “blisk” (blade-and-disk) technologies. By the way, the first TEI built blisk for the LEAP engine was just shipped last month.
Going forward, TEI will be one of the major sources for blisks. Our goal is to help TEI build three major “pillars” of capability if you will: design collaboration, leading manufacturing technology development, and MRO.
Today, TEI is the second leading exporter of Turkey in its sector with over US$250 Million a year, after TAI. When you consider TF-X and other opportunities like the blisk, it is not hard to envision that level of annual exports growing tremendously.
S&H: You have two engines on offer for the TF-X Programme, depending on whether it becomes a single-or-twin engine platform: the F110 and the F414. What can you tell us about the 414?
M. WILKING: The F414 is part of a great family of engines. It traces its roots to the F404 and presently powers the US Navy Super Hornets and Growlers. Derivatives have also been selected by Saab for the Gripen NG program and India for the LCA Mark II program.
It is important to note that the F404/F414 franchise powers 12 unique aircraft applications, underscoring its amazing versatility and our vast expertise in aircraft integration with other countries.
Today, there are more than 1,500 F414 engines flying around the world. It is a modular design engine, has six major components, complete interchangeability of those modules, great flexibility, and offers a 9-1 thrust to weight ratio -- the best in its class. It also has the capacity within our technology roadmap to grow up to 20% in thrust for those operators that need it.
Whether Turkey selects the F110 or the F414, we are proposing that a a majority share of the manufacturing content be produced locally in Turkey at TEI.
S&H: What is significant about the F110?
M. WILKING:Today the baseline F110 delivers 29,000 lbs. of thrust with the capability of up to 32,000 lbs. – in fact, we have one operator that operates at that level today. The technology roadmap offers significant growth capability that is readily achievable with very modest changes to the existing architecture. We can offer an additional 10% thrust to achieve approximatley36,000 lbs. of thrust if required by the TF-X program. S&H: If the F110 is selected, how would that affect TEI?
M. WILKING: If the F110 is selected, we have certain plans to do some consolidation and bring additional work into TEI. In the long run, TEI could potentially become our center of excellence for the F110 engine.
S&H: You mentioned the F414 has a 20% growth potential that the Navy has shown keen interest in. Can you enlighten our readers?
M. WILKING: We call it the Enhanced Engine. It incorporates a wide range of technology upgrades and can deliver up to a 20% increase in thrust for operators that need that additional power. Those operators that don't want to utilize the extra thrust can get up to 3X improvement in life cycle costs due to the durability of that improvement. In both cases -- performance or durability-- the Enhanced Engine could provide additional horsepower extraction capability and bleed air. That’s really important, because as you can imagine, the avionics and other requirements of today’s aircraft demand more and more power.
I think what's critically important is that whichever engine Turkey selects, the F414 or the F110, both engines have a technology roadmap for growth to support the performance demands of the TF-X program.
S&H: What would you like to say about GE Aviation's approach to the TF-X programme in addition to work transfer?
M. WILKING: To re-emphasize, we've been partners with Turkey for over 30 years. We’re the only company that we're aware of, that has created a local entity as an equity partner and has built it up from a small manufacturing entity producing 12 sets of part kits to a high-tech, 700 parts production volume major player in the global aerospace market.
This helps drive US$250 Million in export sales, and TF-X offers a clear opportunity to further strengthen the three pillars we addressed earlier.
S&H: One of the issues that Turkey is very keen on is exports of the TF-X. What is the position of GE on exports to third countries?
M. WILKING: Today, we have more than 200 licenses spanning 50 countries for our F110, F404 and F414 engines. We have requested the US government for third-party exports over 30 times, and they have granted release every time.
S&H: So the export issue has to be taken up on a case-by-case basis?
M. WILKING:No one can predict in 2016 where the US Government will be relative to export of these products in 2030. All we can do is look at our experience today -- 200+ licenses from 50 countries, and over 30 approvals for export. This gives us good confidence about our ability to support the export requirement.S&H: Can we talk about the GE Engines footprint in Turkey in a broader perspective. We mentioned TEI several times. What can you tell us about the Turkey Technology Centre [TTC]?
M. WILKING: Yes, the Turkey Technology Centre or TTC. More than 400 engineers made up of GE and TEI personnel conduct about a million engineering man hours of work annually. We're very proud of that. The TTC is one of five GE Aviation global centres in the world.
Also unique to TTC is the fact they are the GE Coating Laboratory Centre. That means the TTC boasts a unique capability compared to the other four global research centres under the GE Aviation umbrella.
S&H: How is the TTC research decided upon? Do GE & TEI define a project or does TTC specify a certain project?
M. WILKING: It really works both ways. TTC is doing work, not just on the military side, so we leverage all five of our engineering centres. We try to make sure each one has a specialty.
Looking at the way TTC has grown over a short period of time, it goes to show the willingness to invest in its future. It also shows that the capability of TTC to expand that experience and bring a different technology suite -- whether it’s advanced manufacturing, hardware design or analytics.
S&H: How do the five technology Centres of Excellence operate?
M. WILKING: The five GE Technology Centres of Excellence are positioned operate as a single entity or as a flexible, agile network. They could be working on separate technological research projects or on the same project. One might take the lead in a particular project and use one of the other centres as support. Sometimes, depending on the project, we might have two centres co-champion together and collaborate.
We believe that those engineering centres -- the versatility of having that diverse engineering population not just in the US but globally -- is one of the key differentiators that allows us to maintain our technology leadership.
S&H: What can you say about the medium and long term future of GE in Turkey?
M. WILKING: In the near term we hope we are successful and are selected for the TF-X. We're certainly competing very hard and will continue to do so.
We are incredibly enthused about our product portfolio, our future initiatives in the arena of big data, and the tremendous capability they will deliver to operators.
Finally, we look forward to working with TEI over the long term to continue its growth trajectory in the aviation sector.
S&H: Would you like to give a message to our readers?
M. WILKING: I believe that GE Aviation has proven that it delivers on its commitments, backed by a strong 30+ year track record in Turkey. We couldn’t be more proud or grateful for the opportunity that both the Turkish government and local industry have extended to us.
We are honored by the opportunity and take it very seriously. We've tried to demonstrate that what we say, we do.
We hope that has been our hallmark for the last 30 years – and it will continue to be that way in the future.
S&H: Thank you and good luck!