March 14, 2012
Almost 20 years ago, the Army Research Laboratory helped to discover a revolutionary way to increase transmission power in the Apache helicopter without increasing the transmission's size or weight. That innovation is split-torque face gear technology, and it's now inside the Improved Drive System of the new Apache Block III helicopter that began delivery in October 2011. The current Army objective is to field 690 AH-64D Apache Block III helicopters over the next 15 to 20 years. The initial production phase calls for 74 transmissions plus initial spares.
With split-torque face gear technology, helicopters can now have more power without becoming heavier or bigger. These face gears are also being studied for use in other helicopter drive applications beyond Apache Block III.
ARL holds the institutional knowledge on face gear research and development, and on how to approach new, high-risk technologies, perform the basic and applied research tasks required for proving the concepts, and then transitioning those to the appropriate research, development and engineering center for development. This knowledge has enabled ARL to pursue other high-risk propulsion technologies in the areas of condition-based maintenance, advanced drives materials, and surface engineering techniques.