Silent Thunder: Rolls-Royce Hybrid Engine, A New Era Of Stealth Tanks – Analysis


Rolls-Royce has introduced a new diesel-electric hybrid engine design, which combines a diesel engine with an electric motor, which could make future tanks stealthier. The diesel engine generates power that can not only drive the vehicle, but can also charge batteries to power the electric motor.

This setup can improve fuel efficiency and reduce noise, making the vehicle quieter and more efficient. This innovation is part of the company’s Power Systems division’s efforts at upgrading its Motoren-und Turbinen-Union (MTU) series of tank engines—a range of high-performance engines specifically designed by Rolls-Royce for use in military tanks. These engines are known for their reliability, power and advanced technology, providing the necessary performance for modern armoured vehicles.

Rolls-Royce’s Series 199 MTU engines made by Rolls-Royce’s Power Systems division are designed for military vehicles and come in different versions, including six- and eight-cylinder models. They are known for their reliability and power in demanding conditions. They are used in many military vehicles, including the Boxer 8×8—an advanced, modular armoured fighting vehicle—the Ajax family used by NATO, and the M10 Booker combat vehicle used by the US. In the past 20 years, the company has made over 4,000 of these engines, offering both six- and eight-cylinder versions.

As the US military aims to shift from diesel engines to electric ones, Rolls-Royce’s new concept offers a middle ground. This approach helps armies gradually move from fuel-heavy vehicles to more eco-friendly options. Additionally, it enhances the vehicles’ stealth capabilities.

This propulsion concept will greatly broaden the capabilities of future tracked armoured vehicles, allowing them to do things that were previously unimaginable. Christian Wolf, Development Head for Military Engines and Systems at Rolls-Royce Power Systems, while talking to the media, said they were improving the defence capabilities of NATO and its allies significantly.

Future Stealth Tanks

Being eco-friendly is not the only aim of switching to electric power in tanks and military vehicles. Modern warfare relies heavily on electronic components, so these vehicles need onboard electric power for their advanced systems. Rolls-Royce’s new hybrid propulsion system is designed to meet the military’s need for onboard electric power and enhance vehicle performance. The current diesel engines in the vehicle will charge high-performance batteries during regular operation.

When needed, the tank can switch to an anti-idling mode, a state where the vehicle’s engine is turned off to save fuel and reduce noise and emissions, using the stored battery energy. It is then that the vehicle runs on stored battery power, so staying operational without burning fuel. This electric power is delivered quietly and with minimal heat since it is not being actively burned on the vehicle.

Additionally, the company is developing a special silencer to further reduce the vehicle’s noise levels. Combined, these features can help militaries make their tanks stealthier.

Enhanced Efficiency

Another benefit of the hybrid propulsion system is that it also enhances performance, similar to hybrid vehicles in the civilian sector. During combat, the tank can use the battery reserve for extra power, boosting its acceleration or top speed.

At the media meet, Wolf also said that, for the first time, vehicle manufacturers can create entirely new vehicle designs, as the hybrid concept can be applied to any engine series from the MTU military propulsion programme.

Rolls-Royce has also introduced a 10-cylinder version of its popular MTU Series 199 engine, which produces 1,100 kW of power. This engine is designed to power vehicles weighing 50-70 tons. Its modular design allows it to be used in both new and existing vehicles. In future, the company aims to increase the power output of this engine series to 1,200 kW.

According to a press report, Jörg Stratmann, CEO of Rolls-Royce Power Systems, said it highlighted their commitment to partnering with NATO countries and their allies to protect their security interests. He added that working with the security authorities was one of Rolls-Royce’s key strategies. With decades of technological expertise, the company would continue to be a dependable supplier of propulsion systems for military vehicles.

The concepts for both propulsion systems were unveiled at the Eurosatory Defence Trade Fair held in Paris in mid-June.

Girish Linganna

Girish Linganna is a Defence, Aerospace & Political Analyst based in Bengaluru. He is also Director of ADD Engineering Components, India, Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany. You can reach him at: [email protected]

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