Rolls-Royce: As Naval Engineering Evolves, Power is Everything

BATH, Maine (Oct. 28, 2013) The Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer DDG 1000 is floated out of dry dock at the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipyard. U.S. Navy photo
BATH, Maine (Oct. 28, 2013) The Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer DDG 1000 is floated out of dry dock at the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipyard. U.S. Navy photo

While at the Surface Navy Association’s (SNA) 26th National Symposium in Washington, DC the other week, I met Don Roussinos, President of Rolls-Royce Naval Marine.

Roussinos, a Boston native and 1983 graduate from Wentworth Institute of Technology, joined Rolls-Royce about a year ago and notes that the vision for Rolls-Royce looking forward is, “Better power for a changing world” as well as affordability and sustainability for his customers.

At SNA, most of Roussinos’ customers, the throngs of active duty surface warfare officers, are focused on high, dense power systems such as the 36MW Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbine engine, found on board DDG 1000 and the Freedom-Class Littoral Combat Ship, however Roussinos notes that his company is focused far beyond the turbine world, but the full spectrum of propulsion capabilities.

MT 30 engine rolls royce
MT 30 engine test, image: Rolls-Royce

What sort of new technology is Rolls-Royce working on? Are you all involved in electric motors or LNG power within the naval sector?

Yes we are, and we’re looking at all different sorts of propulsion packages including hybrid electric drives as well.

We just acquired a Norwegian company last August called SmartMotor, a specialist within permanent magnetic motor technology.

Regarding LNG, we are seeing some interest, but it’s still far away as kind of an emerging technology.  The U.S. Navy has considered it and we’re talking with other international navies who are considering LNG for GT engines.

Within the naval space, these are mostly just ideas and technologies that we need to explore further, not something that will materialize any time soon.

What are people discussing when it comes to looking at the needs of the U.S. Navy of the future?

One of the requirements the Navy is seeing, and we’re seeing this on the future DDG-51 Flight III ships, are significantly increased power requirements.  Radar systems such as Air and Missile Defense Radar and directed (the AN/SPQ-11 Cobra Judy)  and high energy weapon systems are requiring significantly more reactive and powerful energy sources to drive them.

With those new requirements, we’ve developed the Integrated Power System (IPS) that provides a modularized and scalable power system to our product offerings.

Is this all AC power?  Or is DC power going to be looked at in the future?

AC power, but you’re going to need storage capacity too. So for high energy weapons, you’ll need big capacitors.  That will be a new technology that the Navy is looking at as well as researchers.

The Wartsila – Rolls-Royce situation… from an acquisition standpoint, what sort of companies is Rolls-Royce looking at right now?

We are looking to be power experts.

We look at gas turbine technology, we look at MTU for our high speed diesel technology, and other kind of power sources and periphery equipment.  The segments that we are in, whether it be aero, marine, or energy… are all about power.

Are there any particularly new requirements that clients are approaching Rolls-Royce and asking for support on?

What the Navy, and most of our other customers are looking for right now is to gain efficiencies with the equipment they already have, and do it in an affordable way.  When you get the pieces and the parts working together that’s where you gain the efficiencies, reduce costs, and can start implementing new technologies such as SmartMotor,

Is Rolls-Royce looking at the sensor-space when it comes to monitoring engine efficiency or fuel consumption?

We actually have an Equipment Health Monitoring System capability that monitors the efficiencies the different engine parameters and reports back.  This enables a more predictive performance-based logistics approach rather than just preventative maintenance.  There is a bigger picture to the total care of the products and platforms that we are on.  Through telemetry we can now tell what is happening within our systems installed on ships worldwide.

Do you see any issues from an OEM perspective when you look at the U.S. Navy surface fleet?

It’s a bit of a paradigm shift.  If you look at what the US Navy does from the aero side, they have a total care program from their suppliers that are there to monitor, repair and overhaul their equipment.  We’ve had some discussions about our gensets for example, and the other equipment that we provide and how we could support that.

If we, as a supplier could get the information in real time, we could better support the Navy.  Currently however, we have to request the information, and it could take days before we actually get the data to complete the analysis.

The fact is, there are ways of looking at it differently, it just takes a lot of interests to work together in order to come up with the best solution.

If you could talk with all the engineers in the Navy, what would you say to them?

It’s the paradigm of letting the suppliers maintain the equipment they provide while taking some of the burden of risk.  Everything we do however, is about the customer.  We don’t innovate for the sake of innovating, we’re focused on what we can do for affordability, capability and how we can overall sustain and maintain the product.

Final thoughts?

Rolls-Royce is on the move right now, as you can tell.  We really want to position ourselves to support the customer to provide that capability, technology and product life cycle support either though acquisitions or joint ventures, to ensure our customer needs are being fulfilled.

In North America we have 10,000 employees and we’re being used by upwards of 70 navies worldwide.  We have somewhere around 400 customers.

Naval is a very strong aspect of Rolls-Royce, and an important part of the U.S. national defense.  If you look at everything we’re trying to do with technology from gas turbines, diesel, or the electronics that surrounds it, that’s where Rolls-Royce will be.