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SINGAPORE: Rolls-Royce eyes Asia’s defence services business

Engine maker Rolls-Royce sees its defence services business as a key revenue driver in the Asia Pacific region.

Rob Watson, the company’s senior vice-president for Asia Pacific, says the company’s two biggest defence markets in the region are Japan and India.

Asia Pacific is very important to us as a business, because defence budgets here are growing or reasonably stable, and there aren't the same pressures as there are in our traditional western markets,” he says. “It’s a real area of focus.”

R-R powers a number of key types operated Japan, including the Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion, C-130, a range of helicopters, and the ShinMaywa US-2 seaplane.

Watson, who spoke with Flightglobal at the company’s stand at the Singapore air show, quips that the US-2 is his “best aircraft” because it has five Rolls Royce engines. In addition to four T56 turboprop engines, each US-2 has a CTS800 located inside the fuselage just aft of the wings.

Originally designed for the AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat helicopter, the CTS800 is used for the US-2’s Boundary Layer Control (BLC) system.

“The BLC sits just behind the wing in the fuselage and facilitates the US-2’s short take-off and landing performance capability, generating compressed air around the flaps and control surfaces that allow them to be flown at higher angles of attack,” says R-R.

“The improved performance that this gives the wing enables the aircraft to land at a speed of 55 knots and take-off at 80 knots in seas of up to 3m, a quality possessed by no other seaplane.”

Watson estimates that there are over 500 T56s in Japanese service.

In India, R-R provides the AE 2100 that powers the air force’s six C-130Js - New Delhi is acquiring six extra examples of the type under a Foreign Military Sales contract with the US government. R-R Adour turbofans also power New Delhi’s fleet of BAE Systems Hawk 132 advanced jet trainers.

Given R-R’s strong hardware presence in these and other Asia Pacific, Watson says his key priority is services related to the company’s installed base.

“I’m keen to develop our services revenue,” he says. “As a corporate entity, services account for almost 50% of our revenue. All our operators are cost conscious and budget constrained, even in a time of growth, but there’s a lot that we can do to innovate around our engines to improve performance and time on wing and improve costs.”

Watson cites a fuel management study R-R conducted in relation to Australia’s C-130Js. After analysing the air force’s usage of the type, it was able to make some suggestions that significantly reduced fuel consumption, but which did not compromise operational requirements.

“[The Australia work] was really successful,” says Watson.

R-R has yet to decide if this will be developed into a formal service programme available to other users of its military engines.

Among future sales opportunities for engines, Watson cites a number of programmes, namely Japan’s interest in a possible buy of 17 Bell Boeing MV-22 Ospreys, as well as the arrival in the region of the Airbus Military A400M, four of which will be delivered to the Malaysian air force from 2015. R-R is part of the Europrop International (EPI) consortium that makes the A400M’s TP400 engine.

Malaysia is the A400M’s first export customer, so all partners in EPI are keen to see smooth entry into service,” says Watson. He feels the airlifter has strong potential for more sales in the region.

Another major potential deal that Watson did not mention, but which the company is all but certainly eyeing, is the possibility that Singapore could acquire the short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the Lockheed Martin F-35, the F-35B. R-R produces the lift fan for the variant's Pratt & Whitney F135 engine. Some experts believe the island nation could one day obtain up to 40 F-35Bs. Indeed, an example of the lift fan was prominently displayed at the company's stand in Singapore.

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