For a single-engine aircraft, engine safety is of paramount importance. Therefore, when Volvo Aero (now GKN Aerospace) was commissioned to further develop General Electric's engine F404 (which had only been used in twin-engine planes before) as per the first Gripen’s requirement back in the 1980s, it had to redesign the engine to increase its reliability and power.
The result of the major redesign was RM12, an engine that met all mission requirements for Gripen, at a low lifecycle cost. RM12 also boasted of a relatively simpler design and lesser weight compared to its predecessor. With this powerful engine, Gripen has flown for over 300,000 hours so far without any engine-related accidents.
"It is truly unique and a big feather in the hat for Volvo Aero," says Robert Johannesson, Commercial Manager at GKN Aerospace with a past in the Armed Forces.
GKN Aerospace has been a supplier of fighter engines to the Swedish Armed forces since 1930. The company today holds the RM12 type certificate which means that it is responsible for product support throughout the engine's life. Gripen operators send their engines to the GKN Aerospace facility at Trollhättan for servicing and maintenance.
"We have a very accurate maintenance workshop and that is another reason why RM12 has never failed. When it comes in for service, we not only examine the specific module that fails, but we check the entire engine. This means we catch errors that have not even been discovered by the customer,” says Robert Johannesson.
In 2017, the RM12 engine achieved another milestone by demonstrating an excellent performance with 100% renewable biofuel. The engine performed well both in-flight and on-ground.
Gripen’s latest variant, Gripen E features RM12’s successor, RM16. GKN Aerospace will be responsible for the manufacture and product support for the successor engine as well.
"The reason why we have the confidence to be responsible for the maintenance of RM16 is largely because we have proven our ability with RM12. The Air Force is pleased with the product support we have had and wants the same product support for RM16. Gripen with RM12 has been one of Sweden's most successful aircraft exports of all time. Hopefully we can continue on this glorious path with the RM16 as well," concludes Robert Johannesson.
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