Rolls-Royce's New Defense Ops Center: Indianapolis

Providing worldwide support 24/7 for all its defense products and systems.


You have aircraft all over the world, some in fragile, precarious, hostile environments. These aircraft are essential for getting material and personnel deployed, evacuated, and repositioned. Your local techs are attached to these air assets and carry the brunt of the work; but they have limited resources and limited flexibility in their repairs – and they’re 11 time zones away from the people with the ultimate answers. How do you help them?

In early October 2012, Rolls-Royce unveiled its newest Defense Operations Center in downtown Indianapolis. With its defense business representing some 20 percent of Rolls-Royce revenue, that 40,000-employee company is committed to servicing products that are located around the world. Many have extremely long life cycles (the T-56 turboprop, a version of which powers the C-130 Hercules transport, began life in 1952 – 60 years ago; that’s more than half the lifespan of powered flight!), yet they are supplying the front lines.

Of course, Rolls-Royce has “Service Delivery Centers” located on major bases. They provide local inspection and monitoring; they are a part of Rolls-Royce’s Globalized Mission Care Support. However, they are limited to “by the book” support. When something unusual or particularly complex arises, or when an authorization for a quick fix/off-label solution is necessary, another level of help or authorization is required. That comes from the Operations Centers.
Field backup

On the civil-aircraft side Rolls-Royce has TotalCare. The defense side of the business has a similar program, called Mission Care. Paul Craig, president, Defense Systems, explains both programs, from the customers’ point of view: “With these programs, you know what you’re going to spend; the [cost] risks transfer to Rolls-Royce.” He adds, “The principle is not complicated … but the product can be. Our on-base Service Delivery Centers put our footprint wherever the customer is, and this center is the high-level backup for our people in the field.”

The Indianapolis Defense Operations Center is the second of its type in the world, and the first in the U.S. It provides worldwide 24/7 support for all Rolls-Royce defense products and systems – nacelles, gearboxes, engines, APUs – and helps with questions relating to the interactions of adjacent systems, like propellers, some refueling equipment, even fuel-use analysis, to optimize load/range equations.

Typically, service runs from the first callout to the local (base) service department. If it escalates, it may go to a regional rep, and then to Indianapolis. However, it is also possible to skip this chain of communication; backed by sufficient urgency, the pilot can call the center directly. One more step of urgency exists in the military (as opposed to civilian) sphere: in the direst of conditions, nobody needs to call anybody – just get the ship into the air, and sort it out later!

Military operations range from that direst of conditions to near-civilian levels of support. Craig says, “The [Navy’s] T-45 training is probably the most-parallel to the civil market, with its regimented usage and planned flights.” Others, not so much. During the crisis in Libya, for instance, the RB199 engines in the Tornado put in some 50 percent greater usage than ever planned; yet these engines enjoyed 100 percent availability throughout the operations. The EJ200 (Typhoon) engines averaged over seven hours per sortie, clocking over 6,000 fleet hours – with 100 percent availability. “Whereas, in broad terms, we emphasize [minimum] parts sales in the civil market, in defense, we maximize availability,” notes Craig.

Though the civil and defense divisions are separate, both benefit from some 80 percent parts commonality in major systems. This is synergistic, from both the experience and parts viewpoints; experience in one sphere, whether manufacturing, support, or engineering, supports the experience in the other.

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