The Naval Aircraft Yard at Kochi reached a milestone last month when it rolled out the 50th overhauled Rolls-Royce Pegasus engine, which powers the Indian Navy’s Sea Harriers. The Yard has been responsible for the service and overhaul of these engines since 2001, before which they were sent to the United Kingdom for servicing, and has saved over INR 1800 crore in foreign exchange since then by setting up Aero Engine Repair and Overhaul Shop (AEROS), Pegasus Engine Test Bed (PETB) and the Centre for Avionics Repair and Software Development (CARES) under Project Ashok at a cost of INR 310 crore to overcome obsolescence issues.Steven Gillard, Vice President, Customer Business – Defense, Rolls-Royce, spoke to StratPost about the milestone and the role played by his company in helping achieve it.
What kind of contribution has Rolls-Royce provided to the Indian Navy in helping it get the ability to overhaul the Pegasus engine?
Rolls-Royce has worked alongside the Indian Navy since the induction of its first aircraft in 1953. 300 INAS, the Indian Navy’s carrier strike squadron have been continually supported by Rolls-Royce since their formation in 1960, a legacy that continues today with Rolls-Royce personnel embedded with the Squadron in Goa. With the advent of the Sea Harrier age in the early 1980s, Rolls-Royce helped to train the initial cadre of Indian Navy personnel, both alongside the Royal Navy and at our Bristol factory before moving with the Squadron to India. In the 1990s, Rolls-Royce supported the establishment of the Indian Navy’s overhaul facility in Kochi; part of our long term commitment to Indian self-reliance and we continue to provide technical advice to this day.
How has it come about that a VTOL aircraft engine has lasted so long and remained durable?
Rolls-Royce pioneered Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) flight with the revolutionary Pegasus engine. Since the ground attack version of the Pegasus-powered Harrier entered service in the 1960’s, the flexibility that STOVL aircraft provide to ship and landborne operations has proved invaluable to commanders in war and peace. This flexibility endures to this day and Rolls-Royce continues to be at the forefront of technology with the Rolls-Royce LiftSystem® providing STOVL capability to the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. The LiftFan® element of this system alone swallows enough air to empty a squash court in just over a second.
What is the average age of the Pegasus engines that power the Indian Navy Sea Harriers?
The first batch of Sea Harriers entered service with the Indian Navy in 1983. Following the drawdown of the Royal Navy’s fleet in 2006, the Indian Navy have been the sole-operator of the Sea Harrier.
What is the average age of the Pegasus engines that power the US Marine Corps AV-8 aircraft?
The USMC has been operating the AV-8B since 1985, with the last aircraft delivered in 2003.
Does Rolls-Royce still service the Pegasus engine or is it a role that has now been taken over by the respective services operating the aircraft?
The Pegasus powered, AV-8B Harrier, in-service with the United States Marine Corps will remain in-service for many years to come. The Harrier’s replacement in the United States, United Kingdom and Italy will be the F-35B whose STOVL capability is provided by the Rolls-Royce LiftSystem®. We have Rolls-Royce engineers supporting the AV-8Bs at bases in the US and have also supported them on bases during frontline operations.
Are their lessons here for Rolls-Royce on the way the Indian Navy has managed to keep the engine running and powered up with maintenance and overhaul?
The Indian Navy and Rolls-Royce have worked in partnership to ensure that it is able to maintain this unique fleet. This partnership approach is critical to ensuring that the Navy have the right support from Rolls-Royce’s own experts and the global supply chain to deliver their operational outputs.