The British Royal Navy has placed contracts worth a total of £235m for the latest propulsion technology to power its two newest aircraft carriers.

The contracts have been placed for gas turbines, generators, motors, power distribution equipment, platform management systems, propellers, shafts, steering gear, rudders and stabilisers.

Each carrier will have two propellers powered by two electric motors making them the largest warships in the world to use electric rather than mechanical drive technology. The motors allow the gas-turbine-driven generators that power them to be located high in the ship, freeing valuable space in the hull and providing greater resilience to battle damage.

Defence equipment and support director general ships Rear Admiral Bob Love said that the new carriers represent a series of firsts for the fleet.

“Propulsion technology of this type and scale has not yet been seen in the Royal Navy. This is a step change in the way our ships are powered and, as well as boosting capacity, will significantly improve fuel efficiency enabling uninterrupted long-distance deployments and reducing running costs,” Love said.

Two state of the art gas turbines producing 70MW of power for each ship will be built in Bristol, and will be coupled to generators to be built in Rugby. Combined with the diesel engines already on order, they will supply the 109MW of electricity each carrier needs to move through the water at speeds sufficient for launch and recovery of aircraft and to power services such as lighting, cooking and heating.

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The key industrial suppliers have formed an alliance to ensure that the equipment is integrated into the ships in the most cost effective manner.

By Daniel Garrun.