British aircraft engine manufacturer Rolls Royce is keen on providing the engines for the Airbus A-330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft, selected by the Indian Air Force (IAF) over the Russian IL-78, for its tender for six refueler aircraft.
The MRTT is typically powered by either the Rolls Royce Trent 700 engines or the GE CF-6 engines and both have been offered to the IAF as options to power the aircraft. The selection of the engine by the IAF and defense ministry is key to taking forward the process of contract negotiation and nailing down the configuration of the aircraft.
“We’ve made our offer to Airbus. (They’ve taken both offers to the air force). And it’s for the Indian Air Force and the MoD to decide on the engine selection. We’re hopeful that that will be Trent 700 and we’re willing and waiting to be called for further discussion with Airbus and the Indian Air Force,” says John Gay, Senior Vice President of Defense Customer Business in South Asia for Rolls Royce.
He thinks his company has an edge because of what it claims is better performance over the GE powerplant.“From the Rolls Royce side we fundamentally believe the Trent 700 offers fuel consumption advantage and life cycle cost advantage. That’s one of the advantages of the Trent 700. It’s lower fuel burn and better reliability,” he says, explaining, “The design of the Trent 700 is optimized for hot and high performance – and is optimized for the kinds of missions that those aircraft are fulfilling. If you’re operating the aircraft in what we’d call a hot and high environment such as Leh or such as Agra, the kind of missions that the Indian Air Force will use the aircraft for – we know that, fundamentally, the Trent 700 offers significant payload advantage over either of the competitor engines – somewhere between six and nine tons additional payload, which is pretty significant when you’re talking about the missions the aircraft are required to do.”
Airbus had deployed a UK-destined, Trent 700-powered MRTT tanker for the trials at Gwalior in 2011-end. He says this could translate into the ability to carry additional fuel or payload, or increase range.
“And at the same time it’s with a lower SFC (Specific Fuel Consumption) for those missions than comparative engines. So you’re using less fuel but are able to carry more fuel for the refueling mission which is the mission of the aircraft,” says Gay.
He lists hot and high performance, life cycle cost, SFC, and through-life maintenance and the capability to carry extra payload as reasons for the ‘Trent 700 as being the best engine for the A-330’. “Of the three engines, the design of the engine basically makes it a quieter engine because it’s three-shaft technology and fundamentally makes it a quieter engine to operate,” he adds.
The engine cowl, he says, reduces the noise as well as infra-red signature, ‘which is not so important in a civil role but is actually quite important in the defense role because that reduces the ability of hostile forces to detect the aircraft’.
He also points out that 57 percent global A-330 market share is owned by the Trent 700 engines, followed by GE and Pratt and Whitney, the last of which hasn’t ever powered the A-330 MRTT variant.
“Trent 700 is on the A-330 with a 57 percent market share which as I say in a three engine competition is a pretty significant market share. And a key issue for civil airlines that select those engines is life cycle cost, operability and mission performance because they’re looking at the returns they get from the aircraft platform as a whole and the engine is a significant part of that. So it’s a good position to be in,” says Gay, adding, “If you look at the three engine race and say that one engine wins 60 percent of the orders – and over the last three to five years it’s been something like 75 percent of the orders – then I think that its a good indication of the relative competitiveness of those engines.”
Gay says if the Trent 700 is selected to power the IAF MRTT aircraft, Rolls Royce will also offer their Mission Care maintenance service, which already looks after the AE 2100 engines on the IAF C-130J Super Hercules aircraft as well as the AE-3007 engines on the Embraer aircraft. “It’s not part of the requirements yet – it’s something that we can talk about with the Indian Air Force if we were successful and once the contract is concluded,” he says, explaining that Rolls Royce’s Mission Care is ‘a full engine management service to the customer guaranteeing availability of the product as and when and where the customer needs it’.
“Obviously we know how the engine behaves and performs at different power settings and in different flight conditions. The Indian Air Force will have defined their typical mission requirements for that aircraft and it’s a case of – I have my performance data and I have my mission and if you marry the two together you get a pretty accurate forecast based on a lot of experience. You get a pretty accurate forecast of what the fuel consumption is going to be for that given mission, what the cyclic usage of the engine is going to be for that given mission, what that translates to in terms of an overall overhaul and maintenance burden through the life of the engine,” he elaborates.Rolls Royce has a 50-50 joint venture with the Indian government-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited called International Aerospace Manufacturing Limited (IAMPL) for the manufacture of rings for the Trent family of engines. The US$25 million, 7,200 sqm manufacturing facility in Bangalore inaugurated earlier this month will be the sole source of these components, globally, for these engines. “These parts will be fed directly into the Rolls Royce production system,” says Gay.