Photo credit: stock.adobe.com/phaisarnwong2517
The ITW GSE 7400 eGPU is currently one of the most popular electric GPUs on the market servicing military and civil aircraft across the world.
Now BAE Systems – Britain’s biggest defence contractor – is following suit, having ordered 40 of the eGPU units for their Eurofighter Typhoon fleet, the Royal Air Force’s primary defence aircraft.
The defence giant was looking for an alternative solution to replace their diesel GPUs to reduce levels of noise and emissions in support of the RAF’s aim to achieve net zero by 2040, and the company’s goal to be carbon neutral across operations by 2030.
BAE Systems approached ITW GSE, a known supplier to them for many years, to loan the 7400 eGPU to trial at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, where it provides support to the Typhoon fleet, having heard of the success of the eGPU in ervice at London City Airport.
One of the main advantages of the 400 unit is that it is lithium-ion batteryoperated, deal for hangars and remote stands with no fixed Hz. Plus, it has zero emissions, is silent and requires almost no maintenance.
“We’ve worked with ITW GSE for many years, putting power supplies to support our aircraft in hangars,” said Max Waldron, Optimisation Project Manager, at BAE Systems. “We were given a challenge that aircraft operators and maintainers told us that the traditional diesel powered GPU units were noisy and they couldn’t hear each other properly, and when they are operating
out of the hangars, so they asked us, ‘Is there not a better solution?’.
“So, we were issued with a challenge about how to improve things, along with BAE Systems having a vision to be carbon neutral by 2030. Shortly afterwards, we spoke to ITW GSE and they mentioned that they had created a battery-powered unit, which was already in service at London City Airport that piqued our interest and we wanted to find out more.”
ITW GSE was more than happy to provide a demonstration unit to BAE Systems for the operators and crews to test for a number of weeks and experience the benefits of it first-hand.
“This wasn’t just a purely BAE Systems initiative, we talked to our MOD and RAF colleagues, saying, ‘We think there’s a better way of doing this, what do you think?’ and they completely agreed,” said Waldron.
The first trial was then carried out by an active Typhoon squadron at RAF Coningsby in 2021 just when Covid-19 restrictions started to ease. The ground crew at BAE Systems had it for two weeks initially but ended up wanting it for a longer period of time to carry out further testing.
“Basically, we never heard a word from them, they used it all the time,” said Waldron. “The most amusing part was when we came to collect the unit after they’d had it for six weeks they thought it belonged to them and were unbelievably protective about handing it back.
“For me, that was a good measure of how well it went down with the operators and how they really liked using it.”
BAE Systems then conducted a cost-saving analysis, with the help of ITW GSE, to prove to their customers that it made economic sense to make the change from operating diesel GPUs to battery-driven GPUs at their air bases. They found the overall operating costs to be only 15% of the current diesel GPU.
The fact it is silent equipment and emission free were other positive factors.
“Obviously the biggest benefit, all the crews were saying, when you put the power on the aircraft, all you can hear is the cooling fans on the aircraft on the avionics system, and, nothing else, so that the people can actually start talking to each other, so you improve safety because the communication between the air and ground crews is clear.
“There are no smells so they can leave doors [of the hangars] closed before they open up to release an aircraft. Therefore, they are in a better, warmer environment and also for the health of all the people – the improvements are massive on many fronts.”
While there are many similarities to the eGPU used for a civil aircraft, it is modified to meet military applications, requiring add-ons in regards to extra power supplies and other equipment.
“We have many auxiliary power sockets that allow us to run tests by our aircraft. If you’re in an austere area where you’re not on a power grid, then you need to be able to power those. So therefore, the power set allows us not only to run the aircraft, but also run some of the peripheral test equipment that we need occasionally by the aircraft.”
The first units were delivered at the beginning of March, this year, and the team at BAE Systems has not looked back. The Typhoon fleet is the first aircraft to benefit from the 7400 eGPUs today, but Waldron does not rule out other military aircraft using the battery-driven GPU in the future.
“It could be applicable to multiple types of aircraft because the power requirements are exactly the same. I’m pleased that we are one of the first to make this type of move.”
“We are pleased that our eGPUs have been well received as part of the MOD/RAF mission to go green and reduce costs,” said Jonathan Gibbons, Area Sales Manager, UK & Ireland at ITW GSE. “The contract fell into place after rigorous testing of the loan eGPU on several different flight lines, technical meetings, and sight visits to the final P/O being placed.”
Gibbons explained: “At many military bases there is a demand for green, emission free mobile equipment making the 7400 eGPU the perfect alternative as it is neither dependent on diesel nor on electricity at input and can be used anywhere where 400Hz or 28 VDC supplies are needed.
“Also, the 2400 series of ground power units are popular, including a specific Eurofighter Typhoon unit, which has a military auxiliary power outlet, and is approved by BAE Systems. The 2400 270 VDC is another unit that meets and exceeds the stringent requirements of the world’s most advanced aircraft systems including the F-35 Lightning and the F-22.”
ITW GSE has supported military applications worldwide for more than 50 years to include the most advanced fighter aircraft such as the F-35 Lightning, F-16 Falcon, F-18 Hornet, etc.
“During the last three years, we have supplied more than 500 units to military and defence customers worldwide. The units have primarily been delivered to Royal Air Forces, Ministry of Defences, navy, marine, and air bases,” added Gibbons.