MoD borrows Russian technique to counter effects of sand erosion on powerplants

The UK Ministry of Defence has borrowed a Russian innovation to improve the operational availability of the Rolls-Royce Gem engines that power the British Army’s Westland Lynx battlefield utility helicopters.

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A successful upgrade could reduce Lynx fleet operating costs in sand © AUGUSTA WESTLAND

A titanium nitride coating intended to reduce the effects of sand erosion has been applied to alternate low-pressure compressor blades on both engines of a Lynx operating in Iraq since early last December. This comprises “hard layers for surface protection and soft layers that have elastic properties to encourage particles to bounce off without penetrating”, says the UK Defence Logistics Organisation’s (DLO) Helicopter Engines Integrated Project Team.

The result of a collaborative study involving R-R and the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, the advance could cut Gem overhaul demands and deliver a “drastic increase” in engine life, says the DLO. Previous Russian and US trials of titanium nitride coatings have seen engine blades last up to four times longer in a corrosive environment, it adds.

The trial is scheduled to conclude by mid-March. A successful upgrade could reduce Lynx fleet operating costs in sandy conditions by around £540,000 ($950,000) a year, according to DLO estimates.


Source: Flight International