The UK-based engine giant announced on Thursday that its so-called Defence Service Delivery Centre (SDC) in Bengaluru would provide the army and navy with “fleet management, services engineering and supply chain co-ordination. It would also be the base from which Field Service Representatives could be rapidly dispatched to frontline bases, subject to contract coverage, to provide on-ground technical support.”
With the Indian Air Force (IAF) having publicly acknowledged concerns over the serviceability and in-flight failure of Russian engines that power the Sukhoi-30MKI, and given unacknowledged concerns over the engines on the navy’s MiG-29K, Rolls-Royce’s engine support initiative is significant.
These aircraft engines include: the Adour, which powers the Hawk advanced jet trainer and the Jaguar deep penetration strike aircraft; the Gnome engine that powers the navy’s Sea King helicopters; the Dart, which powers the air force’s HS-748 Avro transport and communications aircraft; and the AE2100 and AE3007 engines that power the C-130J Super Hercules and the Embraer 145 airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft, respectively.
HAL’s engine division in Bengaluru has decades of experience in building Rolls-Royce engines under licence, which have powered India’s serving and retired aircraft. A Rolls-Royce official on Thursday said, “The Service Delivery Centre has been configured specifically for the Indian Armed Forces and HAL with Bengaluru being a logical location close to engine division [of HAL]. Overall this contributes to the broader “Make in India” agenda through skills development and increasing self-sufficiency. The overriding goal is to improve availability of ‘engines-on-the-wing’ through a step change improvement of in-country responsiveness for the current fleets as well as for future Defence programmes.”
Rolls-Royce has earlier successfully implemented this model of logistic support by setting up and operating SDCs at the Royal Air Force base at Marham, UK; and in the US Navy base at Kingsville, Texas. Rolls-Royce features in most years in the world’s top four engine companies, along with Pratt & Whitney, General Electric and Safran. Besides aero engines, it does a significant proportion of its business in marine engines. The Bengaluru SDC, however, supports only aerospace engines.
Over the years, as India’s military opted for predominantly Russian aircraft, Rolls-Royce’s share of the Indian market has dwindled. There was disappointment in the company recently at not having a suitable product to offer to the air force’s proposed upgrade of the Jaguar fighter engine. However, with HAL building and upgrading the Hawk trainer in India, and planning to export it to regional buyers in partnership with its original manufacturer, BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce is expecting more business.
The Centre was officially inaugurated by Mr Dominic McAllister, British Deputy High Commissioner, Bengaluru.