Army Aviation

Modernizing Electrical Power Systems in Army Aviation

Photo By David Hylton | As the Army continues improvements to support Multi-Domain Operations in the enduring fleet, efforts are also underway to modernize the Electrical Power Systems on each platform.

Story by Cindy Mitchell
Program Executive Office, Aviation

To equip the Army of 2030 and provide Soldiers with the very best capabilities for Combat Aviation Brigades, Army Aviation is executing a once in a generation modernization strategy. Investments span from targeted modernization of the enduring fleet to designing new Future Vertical Lift (FVL) aircraft.

These changes require improvements to Electrical Power Systems (EPS) of the Army’s aircraft. The Aviation Turbine Engines (ATE) Project Office oversees power systems for the Army’s enduring and future fleet of aircraft. ATE is responsible for EPS modernization initiatives to ensure both enduring and future platforms are postured for supporting Multi-Domain Operations. The Project Office also manages the T700, T55 and the T901 Improved Turbine Engine programs.

The enduring fleet of aircraft continues in the field today to rely on 1970s and 1980s technology for EPS. These platforms are challenged with an ever increasing power gap as new technologies and capabilities are added to the aircraft. Electrical power loads and demands will continue to grow with the future integration of additional mission systems, customer equipment, advanced aircraft survivability equipment suites, and upgraded avionics and instrumentation packages in the coming years.

The Army’s EPS Initiative

A “key enabler” supporting Tier 1 Major Platform Programs, the FVL Cross Functional Team has designated the EPS initiative a Tier 2 Army Aviation modernization priority. Future EPS will use a Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA) for the design, development, and qualification of a common EPS solution for use on the Army’s enduring and future fleets. The EPS team is addressing the capability gap that exists between the supply and demand of aircraft power loads, recognizing the need for extra power for overall aircraft operation, a margin for reserve, and the ability to continue to grow and expand in the future. These efforts address current capability gaps in the enduring fleet and enable future systems and technology insertions for increased aircraft lethality and survivability. Using MOSA to design a common electrical systems architecture will result in a smarter, more capable power system which will address current electrical power gaps and meet future power requirements at reduced costs.

Supports Operational Energy

The EPS team recently competed and received Operational Energy (OE) funding for FY24-28 from the Office of the Secretary Defense (OSD) Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) to support foundational electrical system and power management modernization. This additive funding will advance the Army’s smart power management, thermal management, reliability and maintainability, and safety of Army rotary wing aircraft.

This OE funding covers two major modernization efforts, the engineering and architecture modeling required to develop a common EPS technical data package and the design and development of a power management solution. The EPS team is working with platform original equipment manufacturers to define a modern electrical architecture for each platform as part of the engineering and architecture modeling effort. This effort includes both determining how the new technologies and components will interact with the existing systems, and defining a common architecture that will enable reuse of components between the platforms.

Power management systems modernization includes adding components such as electronic circuit breakers and a management controller that allows for automatic control of electrical loads during emergencies reducing crew workload and improving survivability. PM ATE working alongside the Army Contracting Command, Redstone recently awarded funding to develop the hardware for electronic circuit breakers. PM ATE will use this hardware prototype jointly created by DEVCOM C5ISR Center, DEVCOM Aviation and Missile Center (AvMC), and ATE to demonstrate future EPS capability and MOSA conformance. These improvements will reduce pilot burden, increase safety, and allow for more efficient aircraft operation.

The EPS team is using the enduring platforms as technology incubators to inform FVL requirements, thereby reducing future risk and streamlining technology insertion of common systems for FVL and enduring fleets. This system of continual learning and improvements has helped inform the development of aircraft power systems and create commonality, improve capability, and increase sustainability across the fleets.

The ATE Project Office is one of nine Program Executive Office, Aviation project offices. Located at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., the ATE PO is responsible for centrally managing the Army’s rotary wing turbine engine and electrical power capability for U.S. Army Aviation and coalition partners. Cindy Mitchell is an Avion Solutions employee supporting the Aviation Turbine Engines Project Office for strategic communications.