After AMCA Fighter Jet Proposal, Rolls-Royce Proposes To Develop Electric Warships For Indian Navy’s ‘Fleet Of The Future’

Rolls-Royce, the aero engines, power, and propulsion systems major, has expressed interest to partner with the Indian Navy for the development of electric warships as part of its ‘Fleet of the Future’.

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The British company will showcase its ability to design, build and deliver customized power and propulsion solutions for the modernization requirements of the Indian Navy. This will be done during the ongoing tour of the UK Carrier Strike Group led by Royal Navy aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Earlier, Rolls-Royce has said it was interested to collaborate with India to co-develop engines for the country’s fifth-gen AMCA fighter jet. India is in talks with Rolls-Royce, French corporation Safran that powers the Rafale aircraft and GE that powers LCA Tejas for a possible collaboration to manufacture a joint fighter engine in India.

HAL AMCA - Wikipedia
HAL AMCA – Wikipedia

What To Expect?

The UK Carrier Strike Group is currently in the Indian waters in the Arabia Sea. As part of this tour, Rolls-Royce is all set to demonstrate propulsion solutions for the Indian Navy’s modernization requirements.

In a statement, the company also expressed its interest in exploring opportunities for cooperating with the Navy to design and develop end-to-end solutions for the electrification of India’s upcoming warships.

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Rolls-Royce claims it is the world’s only manufacturer that has provided navalised marine gas turbine generators into front-line IFEP (integrated full electric propulsion)-powered aircraft carriers and destroyers.

HMS Queen Elizabeth pictured with Indian naval vessels.
The power and propulsion systems of the UK Carrier Strike Group have been provided by Rolls-Royce. (via Twitter)

The power and propulsion system of Queen Elizabeth Carrier (QEC) ships, which includes the mighty MT30 marine gas turbine and a low voltage electrical distribution system, is a fine example of the quality that Rolls Royce provides.

The MT30 has a twin-spool, high-pressure ratio gas generator with a free power turbine. According to official sources, the system was designed with an estimated 50 percent fewer parts than other aero-derived gas turbines in its class.

This was done to reduce maintenance costs. The MT30 maintains operating efficiency down to 25MW. It can be configured in either electrical, mechanical, or hybrid drive configurations. The marine gas turbine first entered service in 2008, becoming the power behind the US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, USS Freedom.

According to the Financial Express, the QEC also features a full Rolls-Royce low voltage (LV) electrical distribution system that is capable of distributing enough electricity to power the equivalent of 5,000 family homes.

Now, the UK-based firm is looking to ground itself in India. A couple of events in the past had hinted at this development.

Past Endeavors

In 2019, it was reported that the Indian Navy is exploring electric propulsion for a planned future aircraft carrier. It was then known that a hybrid system was likely to be considered for development. Indian Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh had confirmed that electric propulsion was being considered.

“Our plan is to build a 65,000 tonner, possibly with electric propulsion and CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Takeoff But Arrested Recovery) so that if we have three aircraft carriers, at least two will be operational at any given time,” he had said.

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However, back then, the most probable scenario was a partnership with a US-based company. It was said that Virginia-based Huntington Ingalls could be a potential partner for a consultant for the future Indian warship plan.

Last month, Rolls-Royce had expressed interest in working with India to co-develop and manufacture engines for the country’s fifth-generation fighter jet program – the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

INS Vikrant
India’s first indigenously-built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant during its maiden sea trials, in August 2021. (via Twitter)

Kishore Jayaraman, president of Rolls-Royce India and South Asia, confirmed in an interview to ThePrint that the country will have ownership of the Intellectual Property (IP) rights for the engines in case of a partnership.

“Rolls-Royce believes we can be an able partner to build an engine in India for AMCA. That is the area of the future. To co-create, co-develop and co-manufacture. It goes in line with the indigenous design and manufacturing initiative that India wants and the Atmanirbhar (self-reliant) way,” said Jayaraman, referring to India’s campaign to become self-reliant in the defense sector.

The likelihood of hybrid systems being used was also addressed. Rolls-Royce mentioned that they intended to bring in hybrid engines for marine systems to power the Navy’s next generation of vessels.

A file photo of Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inspecting an AMCA model. Rolls-Royce is also keen on collaborating with India on the AMCA project.

“The future is going to be all about hybrid and all-electric. And to get into that world, Rolls-Royce is also looking at hybrid propulsion for very large carriers in the naval fleet, and we can do the needful by partnering with all relevant partners and bringing it to India,” Jayaraman had opined.

Deal Soon?

It has been reported that India and the UK are set to discuss the British side’s offer to supply advanced electrical propulsion systems to the Indian Navy at a meeting this week. This meeting will coincide with a visit by UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, and Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Nicholas Carter.

A working group is set to hold its first meeting on October 22 in Mumbai for the express purpose of discussing cooperation on IFEP systems.

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It is believed that the UK has plans to have a more enduring presence in the western Indian Ocean. It aims to deploy two offshore patrol vessels in the region from 2022 onwards and an amphibious vessels-based littoral defense group from 2023.

Rolls Royce claims that it already enables the Indian armed forces to fulfill critical training, transport, and combat roles. Over 750 Rolls-Royce engines of 10 different types power multiple Indian military aircraft. The Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard operate over 95 vessels with the firm’s equipment on board.