As production of the Boeing F-18E/F Super Hornet winds down in the coming years, one would assume production of its F404/414 engine would fall off as well; however, this is not the case, as Saab has recently reminded us. The future will indeed be bright, as the new Gripen E derives its impressive performance from the latest GE powerplants. The GE F404/414 engine equips not only the Gripen but other international aircraft as well, including the KAI T-50 and HAL Tejas LCA. Although it has been used primarily on the U.S. Navy’s F-18, it is these other aircraft that will keep the production lines running. Indeed, Forecast International expects some 450 GE F404/414 engines worth about $2.2 billion to be produced over the next 10 years.
The F404/414 engine family began life in the late 1960s as the future powerplant for the YF-17, which would eventually become the F-18. Legacy F-18s employ two F404-GE-402s, rated at 17,700 lbst each, and propel the F-18 to an impressive Mach 1.8 at altitude. F-18E/F models feature the F414-GE-400 turbofan, a worthy successor, providing 35 percent more thrust.
The South Korean indigenous trainer/fighter T-50 uses one F404-GE-102 engine producing the same thrust as its F-18 counterpart. The Indian Tejas also uses an F404 engine; however, an upgraded Mk II variant might enter production using the F414. The Gripen E employs one F414-GE-39E, which produces 22,000 lbst, allowing the fighter to achieve an impressive Mach 2 and supercruise.
The market for the GE family of engines will grow with an increase in aircraft orders. The Gripen E already has two firm orders, with the Swedish and Brazilian air forces procuring a total of 96 aircraft for delivery throughout the coming decade. Gripen is slated to be a popular choice for countries looking to replace Soviet-era aircraft. The market is therefore vast and, although there is much competition, the Gripen should hold its own.
Tejas is designed purely for the Indian market and no foreign customers are envisioned. Despite the lack of foreign interest, production is forecast to increase over time to 15 aircraft per year in 2025. Development of the Mk II is possible in the future, but for now only the F404-powered Mk I is slated for production.
Korea Aerospace Industries’ T-50 has done well thus far, securing orders for 38 units destined for Iraq, the Philippines and Thailand. The T-50 has secured a niche with operators looking for a trainer that can be utilized as an attack aircraft. Orders for the aircraft from international customers are forecast to remain steady, keeping production going well into the 2020s.
Reliability has been proven with the F-18 airframe and, with three aircraft operating the F404/414 family of engines, production is forecast to be steady to the middle of the next decade. Both the F404 and F414 have long, fruitful futures ahead.
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Forecast International produces two distinct Power Systems products. The Aviation Gas Turbine Forecast presents the 10-year outlook for aviation turbofan, turboprop and turboshaft engines and more. The Industrial & Marine Turbine Forecast covers the markets for gas and steam turbines, mechanical drive engines, and marine power, among others.