Rolls-Royce Group Plc and Pratt & Whitney will be equal partners in a new joint venture to develop geared tubofan engines for mid-sized commercial aircraft (120 to 230 passengers), a market segment they predict will demand almost 45,000 engines over 20 years. At the same time, Rolls is exiting the International Aero Engines partnership with P&W and others, which produces a smaller geared turbofan unit for the Airbus SAS A320 narrow-body jet family.
Aircraft OEMs Airbus and Boeing are developing versions of their midsized jets that emphasize fuel efficiency, and the new venture will seek to offer an alternative to GE Aircraft in that emerging market segment. The Airbus New Engine Option (neo), debuting in 2016, is the most recognizable example of the fuel-saving variants, but Rolls-Royce earlier passed on the decision to develop new engines for the A320 neo.
Also expected to join the new venture are Japanese Aero Engine Corp. (JAEC) and MTU Aero Engines (MTU), who are partners with IAE and Pratt & Whitney on its PW1100G-JM geared turbofan engine program (called PurePower.) That engine was selected by Airbus for the A320neo. Rolls noted that it “will make a modest financial investment” in the PurePower engine for the A320 neo program.
IAE will continue to produce turbofan engines under the ownership of Pratt & Whitney, JAEC, and MTU, and Rolls will manufacture high-pressure compressors, fan blades, and discs for 50% of the V2500 engines produced, and provide engineering support and final assembly for those products.
Rolls will receive $1.5 billion for its share of IAE plus undisclosed payments over 15 years, determined by the flight hours of the current fleet of aircraft powered by IAE’s V2500 turbofan engine.
In a statement, Rolls said that in addition to focusing on “high bypass-ratio geared turbofan technology” the new joint venture will coordinate future research on propulsion systems, “including advanced geared engines, open rotor technology and other advanced configurations.”
Rolls added that the new venture between will benefit from the aircraft market’s acceptance of IAE’s V2500 and the PW1000G engines. It said the new venture will build on Rolls’ past partnership with P&W.
“Today's announcement charts a clear course for the future of Rolls-Royce in the important mid-size aircraft segment,” stated Rolls-Royce Civil Aerospace president Mark King. “We are building on many years of successful collaboration with Pratt & Whitney in this segment to develop advanced aero engines, which we are confident will set new standards in aviation technology, performance and fuel efficiency.”