Rolls-Royce celebrates ‘significant’ hovercraft contract with the US Navy

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ROLLS-ROYCE has secured a “significant” contract to power the US Navy’s upcoming fleet of new hovercraft.

The UK manufacturer will work with a subsidiary of US defence firm Textron Systems to build the craft, which will be 11 per cent more fuel efficient than the existing fleet.

The hovercraft are used by the US government in a number of roles, including supporting the deployment of military personnel and in humanitarian relief efforts where docks or fixed ports are not available.

The Ship-to-Shore Connector (SSC) programme aims to replace the US Navy’s current fleet over the next 20 years, and could extend to 73 in total.

If the full fleet is built, it would lead to the manufacture of more than 300 gas turbines, according to the company.

Andrew Marsh, president of Rolls-Royce’s naval division, said: “This is an exciting and significant project for Rolls-Royce to be involved with.”

Rolls has not disclosed the value of the project.

Each SSC will use four Rolls-Royce MT7 gas turbines, derived from the same engine which powers the US Marine Corps’ V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

The turbines will be built at the company’s production facility in Indianapolis in the United States, alongside its aero engines.

According to Mr Marsh, the company’s engine technology will increase the power of the US Navy’s current hovercraft fleet by 25 per cent, enabling each vehicle to transport up to 74 tonnes at speeds of over 25 knots. Rolls-Royce already supplies gas turbines for the US Navy’s Freedom class Littoral Combat Ships, and will also be used to power its DDG-1000 Zumwalt class destroyers.

The company, which has major sites at Derby and Bristol, employs around 40,000 people in more than 50 countries and generated £11.3bn in underlying revenues in 2011.

Rolls-Royce is investing £80m in a futuristic factory in Rotherham to manufacture high-technology turbine blades for jet eng- ines.

The group is planning another, larger, factory for the site.