Rolls Royce Takes “Conservative” Approach

There is little doubt that the Pentagon is sold on the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle with its capability to provide sustained near real-time imagery and intelligence. And, officials have taken a couple of engine flameouts earlier this summer easily in stride, as the first production models began rolling off the line and entered the operational testing process. The UAV—in its concept technology demonstration form—has been getting a real-world operational workout in Afghanistan and Iraq for years. Talking with reporters in Washington Wednesday, Dennis Jarvi, president of Rolls-Royce North American defense programs, maker of the UAV’s power plant—the Rolls-Royce AE3007—said that the two flameouts were each an “anomaly.” The engines shut down unexpectedly, but both aircraft landed safely. The realm of the Global Hawk, said Jarvi, is one in which few platforms operate. It flies at more than 65,000 feet and stays airborne for up to 35 hours. “There are many things that happen when the air gets very thin up there,” he explained. After looking at the engines for several months, Jarvi said the company is a few weeks away from getting a “definitive answer.” In the meantime, program officials have updated the software that helps the Global Hawk’s engine operate at that altitude, Jarvi added, saying Rolls-Royce is being “conservative” about premature speculation.