General Electric F414 and F404 engines are powerful, safe and reliable

The F414-GE-100 engine, which will power NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology X-plane (QueSST) in flight, is unboxed at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. The engine, one of two delivered by GE, is approximately 13 feet long, and will power X-59 on missions to gather information about how the public perceives the sounds of quieter supersonic flight.Credits: NASA / Ken Ulbrich

When it comes to designing a fighter aircraft, speed and stealth may have been in demand up until a few decades ago, but versatility and multi-capability have instead taken the front row today. A new generation modern fighter, large or small, has to be designed as a well-balanced aircraft, capable of fulfilling a wide range of missions.

GE F414-GE-39E For Gripen

For Gripen, this was one of the key aspects kept in mind during the design period, even while choosing the engine for it. In the last of a four-part series that talks about the design of Gripen, HistoryTech draws attention to the Gripen engine and the role it plays in making Gripen the fighter it is today.

Gripen E powered by RM12 engine

While transitioning from Viggen to Gripen, Saab had to make sure the engine in question does not cause a pressure surge at large angle of attacks. “A military engine must be 100 percent reliable, particularly in the hands of a hard-fisted combat pilot fully occupied with these tasks,” says the YouTuber. “For Saab, the 100 percent military General Electric F404 engine represented a natural answer for a lightweight fighter propulsion unit,” he adds. 

The F404, which was small in size and had a thrust to weight ratio of 7:8, was already flying in the early F-18 fighters at the time. And since Gripen was not designed to have a twin configuration like on the F-18, some more thrust was required. The version that Volvo derived from the F404-400 for Gripen, which was the designated RM12, had its maximum thrust increased upto 80 kN from the 71 kN version in the US Navy. 

“Other than having a good thrust-to-weight ratio and an acceptable specific fuel consumption, it proved itself to be remarkably insensitive (resistant) to the angle of attack or sideslip,” he says.

The Gripen E-series features a new and more powerful engine, F414-GE-39E turbofan, also developed by General Electric. The engine offers 25 percent more thrust (up to 98 kN, or 22,000 pounds with powered afterburner) resulting in an improved air-to-surface capability and enhanced electric airborne attack.

As compared to its predecessor F404, F414 also promises significant improvements in aircraft performance, survivability and payload. It also features 3d aerodynamics, an improved high pressure turbine, and an advanced cooling system (16 percent more airflow than the F404 fan). 

GE F414-GE-400 For Super Hornet

The F414 program was launched in 1992 with a $741 million engineering and manufacturing development contract from the Navy. Since then, eight F414 development engines have accumulated more than 5,000 hours of testing.

Boeing Super Hornet launches from US Aircraft Carrier.

Two F414 flight test engines have been installed on the first F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. By year’s end, seven F414 flight test engines will have been delivered to McDonnell Douglas. A total of 21 flight test engines will ultimately be delivered to support the flight test program.

Designed to modernize the Navy’s air-to-air and air-to-ground attack capabilities, the Super Hornet enters the Navy carrier fleet at the end of this decade.

Rated at 22,000 pounds of thrust, the F414 provides 35 percent more thrust than GEAE’s F404 engine, which powers more than 1,200 F/A-18 aircraft worldwide. The F414’s nine-to-one thrust-to-weight ratio is one of the highest of any modern fighter engine.

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