Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis has announced a multi-million-dollar investment in its testing operations at the Purdue Aerospace District in West Lafayette. The company says the facilities will be used to test high-altitude and hybrid-electric engines for the next generation of U.S. military aircraft. The Purdue Research Foundation says the project will include three brand new facilities and an expansion of one existing building, totaling an estimated 50,000 square feet of new space.
One of the new facilities will be a high-altitude test cell, which Rolls-Royce says will be able to simulate conditions of flight on an engine while it is still physically on the ground. The company says it will use the facility to test a variety of current and future engines for military aircraft such as the V-22 Ospreay, the C130J Super Hercules, and the Bell V-280 Valor.
Warren White, head of assembly and test for Rolls-Royce Defense in Indy, says Rolls-Royce currently has a high-altitude test cell at its campus in Indianapolis.
“By choosing to put that kind of conditioning facility [at Purdue], we can double our research. The university can do better research with it there,” said White. “It’s a subset of the testing we do. All of the production and the manufacturing testing, which is primarily the testing we do, still resides in Indianapolis. This is a unique test cell that has unique environmental conditions…and putting that on in a research area makes the most sense for what the state, what the university, what Rolls-Royce can get out of it.”
Rolls-Royce says the new test campus will expand its ability to test hybrid-electric technologies, such as directed energy, batteries, thermal management, generators and power electronics. The project is also part of the company’s goal of reaching net-zero carbon status by 2030.
White says while there are no specific job numbers associated with the project, the company is always on the hunt for new talent.
“Certainly, working with the economic area like Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County and the region surrounding that, [there is] a lot of talent in that region. Certainly, the university attracts a lot of that and so we will be working closely with the folks we will be adding in up in that space. New work usually brings new jobs. We’re bidding on a lot of new work and these facilities are going to help us get that new work and then therefore, those new jobs in those areas.”
White says ground could be broken on the project within the next year or two and be complete in phases by 2024. The partners are still finalizing the timeline for construction.
While financial details are not being disclosed, Rolls-Royce says it will primarily fund the project, with support from Purdue and the Purdue Research Foundation.
“Purdue is delivering new, one-of-a-kind facilities that are national assets and will further differentiate the university as a state and national leader in securing and defending our country,” Purdue President Mitch Daniels said in a news release. “With this vital partnership and support from our good friends at Rolls Royce and others, we continue to expand our role as the economic engine for this region of Indiana and beyond.”
Rolls-Royce recently completed at $600 million modernization of its Indianapolis manufacturing campus. Tom Bell, chief executive officer of Rolls-Royce North America, says the company is also planning “significant investment” into its test facilities in Indy.