• Toby Irwin

Rolls-Royce Powering the Future JMSDF

British firm Rolls-Royce has a significant presence in both the Japanese manufacturing base and also its navy. Rolls-Royce has been famed for its high-quality gas turbines, and the new MT30 engine is set to power the future ships of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF).

Since the 60s, steam turbines have been slowly phased out in favour of gas. Richard Partridge, Chief Engineer of Naval Systems at Rolls Royce explains that the latter offers much higher 'power density' than the former, allowing the provision of 43 megawatts of power from a system which is relatively small. The MT30 currently already powers the UK's new aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, the Royal Navy's Type 26 Frigates as well as the US Navy's Littoral Combat Ship.

The engines are not actually being built in the UK. The license has been sold to Japan, where it will be built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. The engines are to be used in the new 30FFM (30DX) multi-mission frigates. Over the next decade or so Japan intends to build 22 of these ships, and in doing so will form the bulk of its surface fleet. Regardless, it seems a significant win for Rolls-Royce. In particular, once the 30FFMs enter service (expected 2022), the expectation will be further orders once successful maritime demonstrations can be conducted.

The production of these frigates indicates a growing trend of defence spending and procurement in Japan, which since Prime Minister Abe took office, has increased sharply. Among other things, Japan has also acquired a significant fleet of F-35(A) aircraft, as well as the Aegis Ashore Missile Defence System. Indeed, while the most volatile actor in the region remains North Korea, the IISS notes that these increased capabilities might allow serious power projection. If anything can be taken from the Abe Administrations' security efforts it is that Japan (alongside South Korea) offers a serious market for Western defence and aerospace exports.

IISS's The Military Balance 2019, p226.




Photo Courtesy of Rolls-Royce.com

At the time of writing, Toby Irwin is a third year student at the University of St Andrews. He is studying International Relations. Areas that interest him the most are UK foreign policy and the defence/aerospace industry.