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Rolls-Royce plc – Looking Forward as it Pushes New Boundaries By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.




With over 16,000 military engines in service with 160 government customers in no fewer than 103 different countries, no-one should be under any illusion that Rolls-Royce remains a very important player in global defence.

The same is true in the commercial aero engine market of course and where Rolls-Royce has no fewer than 13,000 engines in service, mainly with airlines, freight operators, lessors and the corporate jet market, and not to forget either that the company has achieved a 50% global market share of all wide-bodied engines currently on order.

I should also mention here that Rolls-Royce achieved “gold status” in the UK Armed Forces Employer recognition scheme earlier this year and also that the company has already signed up to the Women in Defence Charter – thus proving its absolute commitment to inclusion and diversity along with supporting the LGBT community. 

A British company that has been around over 110 years and may be said to be as strong internationally as it is domestically in the UK. Who would have thought that Rolls-Royce has been powering military and commercial aircraft in South Asia for over 80 years and that in India the company is a key player in the region’s aerospace, defence and energy sectors supporting through engineering centres, manufacturing joint ventures and regional services centres, India’s ambition, determination and real potential to be a centre for global innovation and manufacturing.

Currently, amongst the range of commercial Trent family aircraft engines that the company produces, no fewer than six of the large Trent XWB engines are being delivered per week from the advanced production facilities in the UK and Germany So far, Rolls-Royce has delivered over 680 Trent XWB engines since the programme began of which over 100 have been built in Germany. I will return to commercial shortly but first let me talk about a revival of defence.

Australia’s Hunter class frigates to be built at BAE Systems shipyards in Australia and whose design is based on the Type 26 for which 8 vessels are to be built for the Royal Navy will feature some of the world’s most advanced technology, some built by Rolls-Royce including Mission Bay Handling System that are intended to deliver life-long flexibility & adaptability for true multi-mission systems capability. In respect of propulsion systems, the Hunter class vessels will use RR’s MT30 marine gas turbine engine and which is also at the heart of the Type 26 Global Combat Ship programme.

Proven to deliver power, performance and future-proof capability, the Hunter class Frigates in Australia, the Canadian Surface Combatant (Frigates) for the Royal Canadian Navy and which are also based on highly successful BAE Systems Type 26 design, will be built in Canada by a Lockheed Martin led consortium. When in service, the Type 26 design in all its various forms will be the world’s most successful Anti- Submarine Warfare ships. Without doubt, having already earned considerable success in respect of sales, Rolls-Royce’s German built MT30 propulsion system has a long future ahead of it.  

Worth noting too that Rolls-Royce recently celebrated production of its 50th MT30 engine, destined for the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force’s 30FFM program. The company was delighted to share this important milestone with a customer who has already received over 200 of our marine gas turbine engines.

Rolls-Royce places a lot of emphasis on stem and training of the workforce the company will need for the longer term. These days the company uses extensive Virtual Reality systems to train its engineers bringing cutting edge technology right through to formal training.

To lead the third era of aviation the company knows full well that it needs new pioneers and innovators to carry it forward. For instance, RR has already acquired a 180 strong team of innovators to drive forward its plans for all-electric and hybrid electric propulsion systems for the future of air travel. Policies to reduce weight, improve efficiency, lower fuel consumption and cost or airline operation have included 70% reductions in weight, creation of more complex components that have fewer parts, 30% reduction in manufacturing times and also having a pioneering attitude towards Addictive Layer Manufacturing Technology taking concepts such as £D to new heights.

Rolls-Royce is, along with Leonardo, BAE Systems and MBDA, a full partner in the ‘Team Tempest’ sixth generation fighter programme development, a now fast growing UK led programme in partnership together with the Royal Air Force Rapid Capability Office and UK Government and on  which, having signed a Statement of Intent along with the Italian National Armaments Director recently having signed a Declaration of Intent to collaborate on the Tempest programme alongside Leonardo, are further confirmation of the massive benefits that Team Tempest could provide in the years ahead. Other countries are also expected to join Team Tempest over the next 18 months. Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and Boeing are also invested in the highly specialist part jet/part rocket powered engine development company Reaction Engines.  

In the last year alone Rolls-Royce has had no fewer than 892 patents for cutting edge technology designs approved for filing. The company well understands that climate change is an issue that must be addressed and it is leading the way in pioneering technologies across aerospace, transport and other areas. The new motto is Better Future Faster!

In another interesting event earlier this year, the Rolls-Royce Pearl 15, an engine designed to power Bombardiers Global 6500 and Global 5500 corporate /small passenger jet has recently received full Canadian certification. The Bombardier built aircraft will likely enter service later this year.     

Rolls-Royce has also launched its Corporate Care Enhanced model which goes further in terms of the many benefits it offers to airline customers. There are of course a great many other positive and very important Rolls-Royce developments that I could highlight such as propulsion systems being built for the UK nuclear powered submarines, further developments made to the world’s most advanced Health Monitoring Systems (often cited as intelligent engines) the AE 1107C engines that power the Boeing V-22 Osprey Tilt Rotor Technology together with the still ongoing production of Allison engines for the Lockheed Martin C130 Hercules, Eurofighter Typhoon and many others.

Largest amongst all of these is the Trent family of engines and while no one would deny that the company has had some serious issues with some of the later versions of Trent suffice to say that it is well on top of the recovery programme just as it also is in producing greater efficiencies right across the company.

I have deliberately avoided negative areas such as those mentioned in the previous paragraph because I believe that Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East is now progressing very well through the final two years of what has been a massive programme of rectification, change and placing the company in a position where it is not only the best aero engine manufacturer in the world but also the most efficient.

Last but by no means least, it would be remiss of me to fail to mention the next big commercial engine development programmes that you will be hearing a lot more of in the months and years ahead – Advanced and Ultra Fan. While Trent 900, Tent 1000 and Trent XWB have many more years in production yet, Advance and UltraFan really are the next generation of Rolls-Royce Commercial Aircraft engine development and that will bring with them engines that transform flight, set new benchmarks in efficiency, environment performance and precision engineering not to ignore airline efficiency and lower cost of operation and passenger experience.

CHW (London – 9th October 2019)  

Howard Wheeldon FRAeS 

Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,

M: +44 7710 779785

Skype: chwheeldon



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