Rolls-Royce Is Making a 1,475-HP Hybrid Engine for Future NATO Tanks

Rolls-Royce 10-cylinder hybrid engine for tanks 8 photos
Photo: Rolls-Royce
Rolls-Royce 10-cylinder hybrid engine for tanksRolls-Royce 10-cylinder hybrid engine for tanksM10 BookerM10 BookerM10 BookerM10 BookerM10 Booker
For the better part of last century, tanks have been the most formidable weapons platforms for ground combat, and will likely continue to play a major role in future wars as well. The problem is current designs, which actually trace their roots to decades ago, have serious limitations when faced with more modern technologies.
Whereas most companies playing the defense industry game are focusing on ways to counter these new technologies, including drones, just one seems to be thinking about new pieces of hardware meant to propel the tanks of the future: Rolls-Royce.

This week, the French capital, Paris, is hosting the largest land and air defense industry fair in the world, Eurosatory. It is there where the British defense contractor (not the carmaker) is bringing two new propulsion concepts meant for the military platforms of days to come: a new engine for main battle tanks, and a hybrid solution meant to make warfighting easier for friendly forces.

The company is one of the largest players in this field, and it used its experience with something called the mtu Series 199 to develop the new concepts.

Series 199 is a range of powerplants meant for combat machines. Not just any range of powerplants, but "the best-selling engine series for military vehicles in its class." Since its introduction in the 2000s, the family has grown to power a total of around 4,000 battle platforms in service with 15 countries around the world, many of them NATO members.

The list of machines powered by this hardware includes the stars of today's battlefields: the Boxer 8x8 armored fighting vehicle, the ASCOD light tanks and its General Dynamics Ajax counterpart, and the Borsuk infantry fighting vehicle. Even the M10 Booker, the U.S. Army's first armored fighting vehicle to be named after a soldier who served in a post-9/11 war, uses the Rolls-Royce solution.

Rolls\-Royce 10\-cylinder hybrid engine for tanks
Photo: Rolls-Royce
The family of engines presently comprises six- and eight-cylinder setups with power outputs ranging from 349 to 1,073 horsepower. They have been designed to work in extreme climate conditions, they can be adapted to the needs of a particular vehicle, and can work with a series of ad-ons, including separate generators.

Using the Series 199 as a starting point, Rolls-Royce presented in Paris a version of the engine that is capable of generating a total of 1,475 horsepower. The new powerplant comes in a ten-cylinder configuration and have been specifically designed to power main battle tanks weighing between 50 and 70 tons.

Although it shares a lot of traits and components with the other engines from the family it is part of, the new piece of hardware promises to bring a revolution in the field, not in small part thanks to the fact it can not only be used in upcoming tanks, but can be used to repower the existing ones.

The engine itself runs on the good old diesel, and it can be used as such, but it could also work with an electric propulsion component, the hybrid powerpack I mentioned earlier. We don't know the exact details about that yet, but there's enough info to go on to form a pretty decent picture.

Rolls-Royce says the main advantage of combining the new engine with an electric system will be the tank's ability to operate in quiet mode. What that means is when in a concealed position, tank operators will have the option of using the batteries of the tank, previously charged by the operation of the diesel engine, to get power for the tank's systems and conduct their mission.

Not only will the tanks be quiet as a whisper (aided by a special silencer developed to go with this powertrain), but the thermal signature of the diesel engine will be non-existent simply because the engine is not running. Rolls-Royce calls this capability the anti-idling mode, and it also has the desirable side effect of cutting fuel consumption and increasing the range of the machine.

M10 Booker
Photo: U.S. Army
When there is no need for cover and stealth, tank operators can use the electric system to get extra acceleration. We're not told the exact numbers that back this statement.

The British company says it has been working on this design because it's clear a new tactical approach to conducting battles is needed, and "future armored military land vehicles will require more power for propulsion and on-board power supply for the electronic systems."

We have not been given any information about when we can expect the first operational use of the new engine, the hybrid powerpack, or a combination of the two. It shouldn't be that long, though, given that the proposed hardware doesn't require significantly different or bigger tanks to be developed, and it will not be expensive (by military standards) to deploy.

In a nutshell, Rolls-Royce promises the new mtu "will expand the operational possibilities of future tracked armored vehicles in a way that was previously hardly imaginable." And this is only the beginning, as an even larger version, capable of generating 1,609 horsepower, is in the works.
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Editor's note: Gallery also shows the M10 Booker.

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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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