As the use of gas turbines
as main ship's propulsion power continues to grow in popularity, particularly in the niche vessel segments of cruise shipping and rapid transport, Northrop Grumman recently announced that its WR-21 Intercooled Recuperated (ICR) advanced-cycle gas turbine ship propulsion engine
has begun final development tests for the market which has most widely used the product in ship propulsion applications
The engine, which is being developed for naval warship applications through a team led by Northrop Grumman, is being put through its final paces at a naval facility in Philadelphia. England's Rolls-Royce is designing and developing the gas generator and power turbines, while AlliedSignal's Aerospace Systems & Equipment Group in Los Angeles is providing the Intercooler and Recuperator Heat-Exchanger Cores. The WR-21 is touted particularly for its fuel efficiency, as it will reportedly reduce both operation and support costs significantly while keeping the naval ships it serves battle ready. To date, it is a candidate for the U.S. Navy's DD-21 program and for European advanced combatants.
"In initial tests, the WR-21 has already demonstrated a 25 percent annual propulsion fuel savings, compared to the existing gas turbine engines on a typical Navy destroyer," said Jim Hupton, vice president, Northrop Grumman Marine Systems. "The WR-21 is now predicted to deliver a 27 percent propulsion fuel savings in its initial mechanical drive production configuration.
An additional benefit from the newly developed gas turbine is a lower exhaust temperature, which can help to reduce the infrared signature of the vessel. Also, the system is designed to reduce airborne noise by 70 percent over current marine gas turbine models. The WR-21 is designed with ease of maintenance in mind, as well, and individual modules of the unit can be removed and replaced aboard the ship.