Should Australia choose the BAE Systems Type 26 Global Combat Ship to replace Anzac frigates, there’s a substantial saving in long-term support costs from their ultra-low maintenance Rolls-Royce gas turbine engines.
Rob Madders, Rolls-Royce Australia Services program director, said that should the Type 26 be the chosen design for Australia’s nine Future Frigates, Rolls-Royce will provide key systems, including MT30 Marine gas turbine, MTU diesel engines, steering gear, hydroplanes and the mission bay handling system.
Mr Madders said there was quite a range of equipment that Rolls-Royce proposed to manufacture in Australia as much as possible.
Already, Australian firm Marand has been chosen to manufacture MT30 enclosures. The gas turbine itself will be made in the UK.
“I don't know whether the Type 26 is more expensive or less expensive than any other ship, but in terms of quality of product, it reduces your through life support costs. And they're usually double whatever your ship costs, at least,” he told Defence Connect.
“So, in terms of the MT30 gas turbine, it's ultra-low maintenance. It's a step change in maintenance for a gas turbine. There's virtually none. You check it, that's it. It's a life item, you fit it, and when the ship decommissions, you take it off. That's it.”
Mr Madders said there was trend towards gas turbines of incredibly high reliability and ultra-low maintenance.
MT30 is a derivative of the Rolls-Royce Trent aircraft engine, which had flown more than 14 million hours.
Up to now, most Australian warships have been powered by the US General Electric LM2500 gas turbine, the powerplant proposed for other SEA 5000 contenders, the Italian FREMM and Spanish F-5000.
Mr Madders said the MT30 was fitted to the US Navy Zumwalt Class destroyers and Freedom Class littoral combat ships as well as on the Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.
It has also been chosen by Japan and Korea for their new warships.
Mr Madders said propulsion on Type 26 would be what’s called CODLAG – combined diesel electric and gas – a larger version of what’s aboard Royal Navy Type 23 frigates.
“It's that electric motor that gives the Type 23 its ability and its reputation as the ghost ship as far as submarines are concerned,” he said.
On Type 26, there will be just two propulsion modes, electrical drive and mechanical drive using the MT30 turbine, which takes the ship to full speed.
“And it also releases all the electrical generation power to the ship and to the weapons systems. So over 12 megawatts of power available to weapons immediately you go to full speed with the MT30,” he said.
Mr Madders, a former RN submariner, said if a warship was noisy, the submarine knew where it was. And a noisy ship couldn’t detect a submarine.
“So, lowering the water radiated noise is everything. And really, the Type 23 re-wrote that book,” he said.
“I think most people would say it was a benchmark for anti-submarine warfare. The criteria for the Type 26 is to be at least as good as the Type 23.”