Placing complete responsibility for the management of engines, which power crucially important combat aircraft, into the hands of a third party is a bold step for any military to undertake in peacetime. When a conflict situation breaks out this approach is tested to the extreme and armed forces must have complete trust that vital equipment will be available when and where it's needed.
Rolls-Royce has successfully pioneered this way of working in partnership with armed forces, including the Royal Air Force (RAF). The Group has contracts in place to support most of the engines which power RAF aircraft and is focused on maximising the number of engines available when needed, while reducing maintenance costs.
Since 2005, the Group has provided support for the engines that power the RAF's fleet of Tornado aircraft. In that time, Rolls-Royce has delivered a 50 per cent reduction in operating costs while consistently enabling the RAF to meet all their missions.
However, in 2011 the Group faced a new challenge, when the RAF's Tornados were required to fly combat missions in support of Operation Ellamy over the skies of Libya. This led to a huge increase in the amount of time the jets spent in the air and put Rolls-Royce to the test.
Air Vice Marshal Simon Bollom, Director Combat Air for the UK's Defence Equipment and Support organisation, said that despite the demands of flying combat missions from bases in Afghanistan, Italy and the UK, Rolls-Royce met 100% of its targets, which included having engines available on any aircraft within two hours.
"Without the support from Rolls-Royce, none of that could have happened or been sustained," Bollom said.
As Nick Durham, Rolls-Royce President – Customer Business, explained "The RAF placed a tremendous amount of trust in our expertise when it transferred responsibility for engine maintenance to us. We proved that we could deliver when the engines were needed most."
Similar contracts are also in place to support engines in service with all branches of the armed services in the United States and Rolls-Royce is now looking to extend such benefits to some of the other 160 armed forces that it supplies equipment to.
Rolls-Royce is devoting the same levels of innovation to developing enhanced services, as it does to engineering new engines. Defence customers are now able to call upon engine data and expertise held in Operations Centres based in the UK, Germany and the United States that can offer real-time support to operations across the globe. This data, which is recorded 24 hours a day from thousands of engines, enables Rolls-Royce to offer critical technical advice that can keep aircraft available for missions.
Rolls-Royce is also looking beyond traditional maintenance support and into other areas where its expertise can bring benefit to the customer.
At the beginning of 2012, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) signed a contract with the company to help improve the fuel efficiency of its C-130 transport fleet. Rolls-Royce will use techniques developed for use by civil airlines, to help reduce the fuel consumption and environmental impact of the RAAF. Experience shows that this could save the RAAF as much as three per cent of their total fuel bill without impacting their operations.
Despite the innovative approach that Rolls-Royce takes to supporting armed forces, the key to the success of this increasingly sophisticated and wide-ranging portfolio of services remains unchanged.
"You need a high level of trust and openness from both sides to make this work and to really reap the benefits," explained Nick Durham. "Our activity to support the RAF last year proved that we can be Trusted to Deliver Excellence ".