This story was originally published March 24. It has been updated.
ROME — Italy’s massive navy shipbuilding program has taken a leap forward this month with propulsion contracts handed to both GE and Rolls-Royce, marking a major first step into the Italian naval market for Rolls-Royce.
General Electric was awarded a contract March 3 to supply its LM-2500+G4 turbine for seven new Italian multipurpose (PPA) vessels, the same engine powering Italy’s FREMM frigates.
Rolls-Royce, which narrowly lost out in the tight bidding for the FREMM contract in 2005, did not walk away empty handed a second time. It was picked to supply its MT-30 engine to power a new Italian landing helicopter dock, which Italy is building alongside the seven PPAs thanks to a bumper new €5.4 billion funding program.
“We are delighted,” said David Kemp, Rolls-Royce vice president for naval sales. “This is a first inroad into the market for Rolls-Royce gas turbines and we plan to build on it.”
An Italian source said that while Rolls-Royce was kitting out just one vessel, it was a €20 million deal, while the GE contract to supply the seven, smaller, PPA vessels is worth €40 million to €50 million in total.
The MT-30, a marine derivative of the Boeing 777 engine, was chosen for LHD over GE’s offering of the LM-6000 because it has been selected for use on the US Navy’s Zumwalt-class destroyers and Freedom-class littoral combat ship, as well as the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers and Type 26 class frigates.
The GE LM-6000 has yet to find a naval customer.
“The cost was the same, but ‘well proven’ won the battle,” said the source, adding, “The MT-30 was the conservative choice.”
The irony is that the MT-30 lost out on the FREMM competition in 2005 for the same reason, since at the time it was yet to be adopted.
Italian yard Fincantieri, which is building the LHD and the PPAs, will provide packaging for the MT-30s, meaning integrating it with systems including fire prevention, lubrification, cooling and ventilation, which will run to a cost equal to about 10 percent to 15 percent of the total turbine cost. That is work the Italian yard is also contracted to perform for the turbines Rolls-Royce will provide for the UK’s Type 26 frigates.
“There is now an export opportunity for Fincantieri to handle packaging for MT-30s for other countries,” Kemp said.
Italy has yet to sign training and logistics contracts for the MT-30, but Rolls-Royce is likely to offer its training facility in La Spezia and service center in Genoa.
“Italy is well covered,” Kemp said.
On the LHD, the MT-30 will power the ship to 25 knots, while the vessel will be installed with two 12mw MAN diesels to provide 20 knots cruising speed in diesel mode.
The vessel will have a displacement of 27,000 tons, and in some loading conditions may rise to over 30,000 tons, making it the largest ship of the Italian Navy fleet.
The navy has focused on dual-use applications, with room for a hospital on board and the ability to provide power and water to communities on land hit by disasters.
But with two lifts, a hangar and a garage space, the LHD could also double as a carrier, with room to host F-35 aircraft.
General Electric expects to deliver its first LM2500+G4 engines for Italy’s seven PPA vessels in 2017, with the remaining six delivered by 2022.
While helping the vessels reach 32 knots, the propulsion system also features two diesels, and will be able to power onboard weapons and sensor systems, as well as providing up to 2 megawatts of power to on-shore operations.
For its work on the 33mw turbines, General Electric will team with Italian propulsion firm Avio Aero, which it purchased in 2013, after previously using Avio for work on the FREMM contract.
Avio Aero will take design responsibility for the packaging of the PPA propulsion system, with work carried out by Fincantieri.
Corrardo Crotti, military sales director for Avio Aero, said the systems provided for the FREMM frigates and the PPA vessels were the same, with one exception. “We are switching from a hydraulic starter on the FREMM to an electric starter on the PPAs, trimming two tonnes from the weight,” he said.
At its Brindisi plant in southern Italy, Avio Aero produces 20 percent of components used in LM2500 engines globally and has also become a maintenance center for the system since the GE purchase of the firm.
That means the center will not only maintain the engine for the Italian Navy, but for the 34 other navies using the engine, said Crotti.
“We have worked on US and Canadian navy engines and we are pushing for more US Navy work,” he said.