From our friends at Aviation Week (also covering the Sea-Air-Space conference):
The lack of a viable long-term sustainment solution for the V-22's Rolls-Royce engines may drive the U.S. Marine Corps to look for entirely new engines in a few years.
"We need to move on, with or without Rolls-Royce," Marine Corps Col. Matt Mulhern, V-22 program manager, told reporters at the Naval Sea-Air-Space Expo Tuesday.
Over the next two years, the Marine Corps will work on developing a new strategy to solve issues that have arisen with V-22 engine maintenance in Iraq. "We're casting a wide net to see what's available. [The solution] could be status quo all the way up to needing to find a new motor," Mulhern said.
When Rolls-Royce proposed a maintenance strategy back in 1998, it was a "power-by-the-hour" solution, Mulhern said, which has turned out to be insufficient.
"That business case analysis predicted the engine components would last so many thousands of hours," he said. "I'm not sure the government ever agreed with Rolls-Royce, but we thought it was a good business case. Now, as we actually operate the aircraft, the engines aren't lasting as long as we [or the government] would like."
Rolls-Royce cannot support the current strategy, Mulhern said. They are unable to recoup the cost of engine maintenance under the power-by-the-hour plan. "We'll have to move to more traditional engine support," he said.
The engines are not lasting long in service because of erosion in the compressor blades, which reduces engine efficiency and forces the engine to run at higher temperatures to reach the same power. Another concern is that the existing engine does not have enough margin to handle expected weight growth.
The only turbine engine available in the same power class as the AE 3007 is the General Electric GE38-1B, selected last year as the powerplant for the Sikorsky CH-53K helicopter. Mulhern says that the Navy has not reached the point of estimating the cost of a re-engining program.