NWI - Naval Warfare

Analysis: Rolls-Royce powering ahead

29th June 2017 - 12:00 GMT | by Beth Maundrill in Bristol

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Rolls-Royce says it is now on course to rectify issues with the UK Royal Navy’s Type 45 WR-21 engines alongside continuing to deliver to other vessels in the UK and across the globe.

In 2015 it was reported that high temperatures in the Arabian Gulf resulted in reductions in power generation from its WR-21 engine for the T45 destroyers when deployed to the region, followed by a barrage of negative press in both the nationals and industry publications.

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is working on two means of modifying and improving performance. First is the power improvement programme, which looks at the whole power and propulsion solution, which although Rolls-Royce is not directly involved it will be bidding into it with the MTU Diesel. In parallel the MoD runs an equipment improvement programme, including improvements to the recuperator.

The Rolls-Royce WR-21 at the company's test facility.

Speaking to journalists at Rolls-Royce’s Bristol site Tomas Leahy, director of global naval programmes, said that the company has embarked on a strategy to modify the intercooler-recuperator with a redesign which has now been extensively tested and fitted onto one of the Type 45 vessels. 

This vessel has been trialled successfully in and around the UK and is now due to go on deployment later in 2017, although when asked the company could not disclose which of the six vessels has the upgrade.

‘She is off to warmer climes and that is the official sea-trial for the modification,’ said Leahy. A mid-deployment inspection of the recuperator is planned and another upon the return of the vessel.

To get to this stage the company used its repair and overhaul facilities for the WR-21 gas-turbine engine at its Bristol site to work on the improvements to the efficiency and reliability. 

‘We have had some quite considerable success in this area, we looked at all of the failure modes that we had been experiencing on the recuperator and we have had a large programme of work looking at a redesign and modification,’ Leahy said.

‘We installed that on a testbed here [in Bristol] at the back end of last year [2016] and we did a 500 simulated endurance test.’

The company simulated the modified recuperator on a nine month deployment of the vessel and by taking the constant running out and focusing on fluctuation of temperatures they reached the 500 hours of cyclic running.

‘The recuperator modification ran extremely well,’ said Leahy.

The new modified recuperator was installed onto one of the Type 45’s over a period of about four weeks according to Leahy, this means the modification can be added to the vessels within a standard maintenance period. 

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The QEC leaving its home port for the first time on 26 June 2017 ahead of six weeks of sea trials.

If the modification is deemed to be a success Leahy said that the plan is to roll the modification out across the fleet to all 12 engines, in conjunction with the MoD.

‘We really believe that this will improve the reliability of the WR-21,’ Leahy added.

While the company seeks success in the continued work on the T45 it is also focused on the UK’s Queen Elizabeth Carrier (QEC) and Type 26 global combat ship programme.

On Monday 26 June QEC set sail from Rosyth for the first time to conduct six weeks of sea trials ahead of the official hand over of the vessel  to the Royal Navy in November this year. 

Rolls-Royce is set to provide its MT30 gas turbine engine to the UK MoD's Type 26.

Rolls-Royce has provided two of its MT30 gas turbine engines to the QEC programme, which it manufactures at its Bristol site. All of Rolls-Royce equipment, including the adjustable voltage propeller (AVP), will also be installed on the second navy carrier, the Prince of Wales, which will be entering the water later this year. 

The MT30s have already achieved 1,000 hours of running on the QEC and the company will be fully invested in the power and propulsion during the ongoing sea trials.

The ongoing T26 programme will also see the MT30 engine on board, the first engine completed its factory acceptance tests in January 2017 and delivery to BAE Systems in March 2017. The next stage of the programme will be for BAE Systems to receive a manufacturing contract from the MoD for the ship build.

Rolls-Royce is currently under contract to deliver engines to the first three of eight vessels. It also has design contracts for the mission bay handling system and the propeller design. 

‘We expect to take on the contract for those for the first three vessels in the next quarter,’ Leahy said. 

The MT30 for the T26 during factory acceptance tests at Rolls-Royce in Bristol.

There could also be more sales on the horizon for Rolls-Royce if Canada ever reaches a decision for its frigate replacement programme, which could see the selection of the Type 26. However, this programme has been delayed and criticised by local media for its poor management and high budget.

Following the Canadian defence policy review in January the government committed to 15 new ships under the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) programme with a cost of up to CAD$26.2 billion ($20 billion).

Additionally, Italy is currently in receipt of the MT30 after selecting it for its Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) multi-purpose amphibious vessel, built by Fincantieri. Both MT30’s have completed factory acceptance tests.

MT30-38 at the Rolls-Royce Bristol site on 27 June 2017, destine for Italy's LHD.

The MT30 engine is also set for the Republic of Korea Navy’s (RoKN) FXX-II Daegu-class frigates. This will be the first application of the MT30 with its enhanced power which will go from 30 megawatts to 40 megawatts at 100 Fahrenheit, according to Richard Partridge, chief of naval systems at Rolls-Royce. 

‘In terms of power density we have attacked it from two angles, increase the power and actually reduce the size of the package, we call it the compact package,’ Partridge added.

HHI engines and machinery division, based in Ulsan, South Korea, is the company’s local packager for the MT30 engine. 

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This power density enhancement has allowed for a hybrid electro-mechanical system, enabling to RoKN to achieve 30kts on the anti-submarine warfare platform.

‘Having a hybrid system where the motors are operating at low ship speed during ASW operations provides a very quiet ship sate,’ said Partridge, this was enabled by the high power density. Additionally, for the first time the RoKN is operating a hybrid arrangement for the MT30 with an electric motor alongside the gas turbine mode.

Partridge said that the MT30 in a single gas turbine arrangement, whether hybrid or mechanical, is in active consider across the world including Japan, Finland, but also places like Canada, Australia and elsewhere. These interests, which include the CSC programme, could move forward as early as the end of 2017. 

‘Korea and Japan are two booming markets compared with that of Europe they are looking to spend a lot on defence,’ said Leahy. The company is continuing to expand in North East Asia.


In the US Rolls-Royce is providing its gas turbines to the littoral combat ship (LCS) programme, the DDG 1000 Zumwalt-class destroyers and the its MT7s to the US Marine Corps Ship to Shore connector. 

The US Coast Guard (USCG) is also being provided with various equipment from Rolls-Royce, including the Promas rudder, propellers, MTU Gensets and steering gears. This programme has the potential for 25 ships in total.  

Speaking at the company’s Bristol site Don Roussinos, president of naval at Rolls-Royce, said: ‘Our pivot towards the US has been so important for the defence market, we have a significant presence in the US with our headquarters in Walpole, Massachusetts, building propellers for the US Navy and also in Indianapolis where we provide the gen-sets for many in the US.

‘We are growing our presence even more in the gas turbine business where we are on the LCS and the DDG 1000 ships. We are going to be looking to expand further into the fast frigate programme and others.’ 

While the company has a global outreach Rolls-Royce is fully embedded in the US market with the likelihood of growth being driven by the current US administrations focus on strengthening the US military with the US Navy predicted to benefit most from budget increases, a 5% increase coming out of congress.

The company is currently under contract to deliver its MT30 engines to the Freedom-class LCS up to ship sets 21, with further contract expected in the near-term for the Freedom-variant vessels up to number 33.

The USMC Ship to Shore contract could be equally as lucrative for the company as the current contract is for 72 of the craft, through prime contractor Textron, with four engines per platform, with more likely to be procured.

Generally the company is making headway in both its traditional markets and new emerging markets with a key focus on innovation for both its new and current customers. 

However, with the drama that unfolded in the press over the T45 engines issues most will be on the edge of their seats to see how the new modifications withstand deployment before delving into the company’s other key achievements of late. 

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