General Electric YF120

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Type Variable Cycle Turbofan
National origin United States
Manufacturer General Electric
First run 1980s
Major applications Lockheed YF-22
Northrop YF-23
Developed into General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136

The General Electric YF120 was a variable cycle turbofan engine designed by GE Aircraft Engines in the late 1980s/early 1990s for the United States Air Force's Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) project (which resulted in the F-22 Raptor). GE lost the engine competition for this aircraft to Pratt & Whitney F119.

Development and design[edit]

General Electric began developing the YF120 for the ATF competition in the early 1980s. Unlike competitor Pratt & Whitney, GE elected against developing a conventional low bypass turbofan and instead chose to design a variable cycle engine. This decision was made as a result of the challenging ATF requirement of supercruise. This meant the engine had to produce a large amount of dry thrust (without afterburner) and therefore have high off-design efficiency ("design" being standard cruise conditions).[1]

The core technology used in the YF120 was developed during two industry-government programs, the Advanced Technology Engine Gas Generator (ATEGG) and Joint Technology Demonstration Engine (JTDE) programs.[2]

On 3 November 1990, a YF-22 powered by two General Electric YF120s set a supercruise record of Mach 1.58.[3]

Variable cycle[edit]

The YF120's variable cycle system worked by varying the bypass ratio of the engine for different flight regimes, allowing the engine to act like either a low bypass turbofan or nearly a turbojet.[1] As a low bypass turbofan (like competitor F119), the engine performed similarly to comparable engines. When needed, however, the engine could direct more airflow through the hot core of the engine (like a turbojet), increasing the specific thrust of the engine. This made the engine more efficient at high altitude, high thrust levels than a traditional low bypass turbofan.[4]

An expected disadvantage of this variable cycle system would be increased complexity and weight. GE claims to have combated this by using simple pressure driven valves rather than complex mechanically actuated valves to divert airflow. GE stated that this system resulted in the variable cycle system adding only 10 lb to the engine.[1] Additionally, a production F120 engine was expected to have 40% fewer parts than the F110 engine.[2]

Thrust vectoring[edit]

The YF120 engine featured a two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzle. The nozzle allowed for vectoring in the pitch direction. This capability gave the aircraft it was installed in a serious advantage in pitch agility by greatly increasing the amount of nose pitching moment available to the aircraft. The pitching moment is traditionally generated by the horizontal stabilizer (and/or canard, if applicable), but with a thrust vectoring nozzle that moment can be augmented by the thrust of the engine.[citation needed]

While the YF120 engine never went into production, it was installed in the YF-22 used for the high angle of attack demonstration program as part of the ATF competition. During this demonstration, the YF120 powered aircraft flew, trimmed, at 60 degrees angle of attack at 82 knots. At this attitude the aircraft was able to demonstrate controlibility. Later analysis revealed that the aircraft could have maintained controlled, trimmed flight up to 70 degrees angle of attack.[5]

Advanced development[edit]

The YF120 was also proposed as the basis for a more exotic engine, the Turbine-Based Combined Cycle (TBCC) engine that was to be used in demonstrator aircraft like the X-43B and future hypersonic aircraft. Specifically, the YF120 was to be the basis for the Revolutionary Turbine Accelerator (RTA-1). The variable cycle technology used in the YF120 would be extended to not only turn the engine into a turbojet but also into a ramjet. In that mode all airflow would bypass the core and be diverted into the afterburner-like "hyperburner" where it would be combusted like a ramjet. This proposed engine was to accelerate from 0 to Mach 4.1 (at 56,000 ft) in eight minutes.[6][7]


Specifications (YF120)[edit]

Data from Aronstein[8]

General characteristics



See also[edit]

Related development

Comparable engines

Related lists


  1. ^ a b c Moxon, Julian (1989). ATF rivals ready for engine contest. Flight International. 15-21 Nov 1989, pg. 22-23.
  2. ^ a b c Norris, Guy (1990). Power Struggle. Flight International. 1-7 Aug 1990, pg. 22-23
  3. ^ "YF-22 PAV-1 breaks supercruise speed record". Defense Daily. 19 November 1990. Retrieved 10 August 2015 – via HighBeam Research. (Subscription required (help)).
  4. ^ GE F120 Powerplant Uses Fan Bypass Door to Regulate Variable Cycle (1990). Aviation Week and Space Technology. 30 Jul 1990. Vol. 133, No. 5; pg. 21
  6. ^ Norris, Guy (2003). GE unveils ramjet design for shuttle. Flight International. 23 Sept 2003, pg. 26.
  7. ^ Mach 7 engine to be turbine-based (2004). Flight International. 23 Dec 2003 - 5 Jan 2004, pg. 13.
  8. ^ Aronstein pp. 224
  9. ^ Kauser, Fazel (1994). An Overview of Gas Turbine Propulsion Technology. 30th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference. 27-29 Jun 1994, Indianapolis, IN. AlAA 94-2828.
  • GE unveils ramjet design for shuttle Technology News Flight International 23/09/03 .
  • Aronstein, David C.; Hirschberg, Michael J. (1998). Advanced Tactical Fighter to F-22 Raptor: Origins of the 21st Century Air Dominance Fighter. Arlington, Virginia: American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronomy. ISBN 978-1-56347-282-4.

External links[edit]