Rolls-Royce pursues “Atmanirbhar Bharat” in all three dimensions - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 18 October 2022

Rolls-Royce pursues “Atmanirbhar Bharat” in all three dimensions

British firm looking to engage with India’s military to explore engine design in air, sea and land systems (Photo: Royal Navy's Type 45 destroyer, courtesy Wikipedia)


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 19th Oct 21


As China’s rising aggression in the Asia-Pacific drives strategic convergence between India, the US and the UK; British high-technology firm Rolls-Royce sees strategy, politics and technology converging to create a compelling rationale for major investments in India.


Rolls-Royce executives at the DefExpo 22 defence exhibition point out that they are the only global original equipment manufacturer (OEM) looking to engage with India’s military in the “highest-technology” realm of engine design in three dimensions – air, sea and land.


Navy gas turbines


In the realm of aircraft carrier propulsion, Rolls-Royce is pitching its MT30 turbines, which provide all-electric drive to both the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. 


With New Delhi ruling out nuclear propulsion for India’s second indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-2), which is still in the design phase, Rolls-Royce executives point out that the MT30 has already proven its capability in driving the 65,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth. The IAC-2 is also being conceived as a 65,000 tonne carrier. 


Rolls-Royce says the MT30 is “designed with approximately 50 per cent fewer parts than other aero-derived gas turbines in its class… and can be configured in either mechanical, electrical or hybrid drive configurations.”


Rolls-Royce is also offering India the MT30 turbine. The Indian Navy has so far built its destroyers and frigates with Russian or Ukrainian turbines, or with the General Electric (GE) LM-2500 gas turbine.


"Bringing the MT30 to India, in collaboration with HAL, has been a key focus for us. The engine has been designed to meet the requirements of naval platforms and India can leverage the MT30 marine gas turbine for all-electric and hybrid propulsion arrangements for its future fleet," says Alex Zino, Executive Vice-President at Rolls-Royce. 


Aero engines


Rolls-Royce has a long history of partnering India in manufacturing and operating aero engines. Currently, some 750 Rolls-Royce engines power aircraft in service with the IAF, the Indian Navy and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).


These include: Adour engines, which power the Hawk advanced jet trainer and the Jaguar deep penetration strike aircraft; the Gnome engine that powers the navy’s Sea King helicopters; the Dart, which powers the air force’s HS-748 Avro aircraft; and the AE2100 and AE3007 engines that power the C-130J Super Hercules and the Embraer 145 airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft respectively. 


Many of these aero engines were built under licence in HAL’s Engine Division in Bengaluru. While Rolls-Royce’s marine engines are fewer in number, they are “aero-derivative” engines, which means they were originally aero engines that had been re-engineered into marine engines.


For Rolls-Royce, the big prize in India’s aero engines field is the opportunity to design and develop a power pack for the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), which will form the backbone of the IAF’s fifth-generation fighter fleet starting a decade from now. 


“This is about co-creating the Intellectual Property (IP) that goes into a brand new fighter engine. From our perspective, this will be a greenfield design and will take a decade to create,” said Zino.


Light tank engine


The DRDO is designing and developing a new light tank, to prevent any further instances of Indian troops being outgunned in places such as Eastern Ladakh, where the Indian Army found itself confronting Chinese armour.


While the Indian side did a creditable job in moving up its T-72 tanks to the Chushul area, that required long road moves that wore down Indian tanks, as well as Indian roads. Army planners gave the go-ahead for the DRDO to develop a 35-40 tonne light tank, and the DRDO opted for a MTU MB 838 engine that generates 1,400 Horse Power.


German engine-maker MTU has been acquired by Rolls-Royce Power Systems.

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