Senior defence industry officials revealed during testimony to a parliamentary inquiry on 7 June that the problems with the integrated electric propulsion (IEP) system on the Royal Navy's new Type 45 destroyers are more acute in warm environments such as the Gulf.
Rolls-Royce's Tomas Leahy claimed the Ministry of Defence (MoD) failed to specify that the Type 45s would have to operate in warm environments. "There was a specification for Type 45, the engine met that specification," he told the inquiry. "Are the conditions in the Gulf in line with that specification? No they are not, so the equipment is having to operate in far more arduous conditions than initially required by that specification."
"The operating profile considered at the time [the Type 45 was specified] was that there would not be repeated and continuous operations in the Gulf," BAE Sysyems Maritime Managing Director John Hudson said. "It was not designed explicitly or uniquely for operations in the Gulf."
He said that BAE had nevertheless attempted to design the ship so it would experience a "graceful degradation" of its performance at high temperatures, but then added that the exact opposite was happening.
"What we have found in the Gulf is that it takes the gas turbine generator bit into an area which is sub-optimal for the generator, and also we found that with the drive units that the cooling system created condensation within the drive units which caused faults and that caused electrical failures as well," he said. These electrical failures leave the Type 45s unable to operate their propulsion, sensor, or weapons systems.
Leahy suggested the problems would be experienced by all gas turbines, not just the Rolls-Royce WR-21 engines fitted to the Type 45. "It's not a fault of the WR-21. Even if it was a simple-cycle gas turbine it will still suffer the same fate in those circumstances, it's a law of physics."
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