Airbase Arizona - Commemorative Air Force

A New GE F404 Jet Engine Displayed in the Museum

by Jim Evans, Museum Director

On 24 Aug 2017, all of the attention around the Airbase was on our newest arrival, the Grumman TBM “Avenger” from Quonset Air Museum. Almost unnoticed at the time was a relatively small silver cylinder on the same trailer with the Avenger fuselage.

We are grateful to our Acquisition Committee for their efforts in saving notable items from the now-defunct Quonset facility including this GE F404 engine.

The General Electric F404 engine was developed for the F/A-18 “Hornet.” Its development began shortly after GE lost the competition for the engines for the F-15 “Eagle” to Pratt and Whitney and then lost the so-called Lightweight Fighter (LWF) competition to the P&W-powered YF-16.

For the F/A-18 “Hornet,” GE based the F404 on the YJ101 engine they had developed for the Northrop YF-17. Three principal goals were a larger bypass ratio for better fuel economy, greater reliability, and lower cost, if possible. The engine was designed with an emphasis on reliability rather than maximum performance. The engine was first run in 1978.

GE analyzed the “throttle profiles” experienced during test flights and found that pilots were changing throttle settings much more frequently than engineers had forecast. These “throttle excursions” tended to put additional stress on the engines. GE sought to design an engine more resistant to compressor stalls and other types of engine failures.

The GE F404 engine is an afterburning turbofan and weighs about 2,282 lb all up. It is about 3 ft in diameter and about 13 ft long. It has three fan and seven compressor stages, annular combustors and two turbine stages (low-pressure and high-pressure). The power output is 11,000 lbs of thrust at military thrust and 17,700 lbs with afterburner. Over 4,000 F404 engines have been produced. Our example does not have the afterburner section.

OUR engine, which we understand was originally installed in a F-117 “Stealth Fighter,” and especially its supporting stand required some TLC after over 18 months outside in the Rhode Island weather. The engine is now on display next to the F-4 and its massive J-79 engine – an interesting contrast!  The GE F404 engine is used on the Northrop F-20 “Tigershark”, the ST Aerospace A-4SU “Super Skyhawk,” the Lockhheed F-117 “Nighthawk” and, of course, the F/A-18 “Hornet” and “Super Hornet.”

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