General Electric J85-GE-17A Turbojet Engine, Cutaway


Display Status:

This object is on display in the How Things Fly exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

Collection Item Summary:

In late 1953, General Electric began a design study of a high thrust-to-weight ratio turbojet engine. The prototype J85 engine ran in January 1956, the first flight was in August 1958 as the power plant of the McDonnell GAM-72 missile, and in September 1958 the prototype North American T-39 Sabreliner flew for the first time powered by the first man-rated J85 engines.

The J85 was the first U.S. small turbine engine to go into production with an afterburner. The most important applications were the Northrop T-38 Talon, the first supersonic trainer, and Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter, a low-cost fighter used by many nations from the 1960s through the 1980s. The non-afterburning J85-GE-17A powered the Cessna A-37A/B attack aircraft. The J85 had the highest thrust-to-weight ratio of production engines built for its time (up to 7.3:1 on the J85-GE-21). GE built more than 12,000 J85 engines before production ended in 1988.

Collection Item Long Description:



Inventory Number


Physical Description

  • Type: Turbojet, single-shaft
  • Thrust: 12,680 N (2,850lb) at 16,500 rpm
  • Compressor: 8-stage axial
  • Combustor: Annular
  • Turbine: 2-stage axial
  • Weight: 181 kg (398 lb)

Credit Line

Transferred from the Maryland Air National Guard, Baltimore, Maryland

Country of Origin

United States of America




3-D: 114.3 × 53.3 × 66cm, 180.5kg (45 × 21 × 26 in., 398lb.)

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum

Restrictions & Rights

Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum


PROPULSION-Turbines (Jet)

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