Rolls-Royce Vulture

The Rolls-Royce Vulture was a British aero engine developed shortly before World War II that was designed and built by Rolls-Royce Limited. The Vulture used the unusual "X-24" configuration, whereby four cylinder blocks derived from the Rolls-Royce Peregrine were joined by a common crankshaft supported by a single crankcase. The engine was originally designed to produce around 1,750 horsepower (1,300 kW), but continuing problems with the Vulture design meant that the engines were derated to around 1,450-1,550 hp in service by limiting the maximum rpm.

Although several new aircraft designs had been planned to use the Vulture, work on the engine's design ended in 1941 as Rolls-Royce concentrated on their more successful Merlin design. Another 24-cylinder engine, the Napier Sabre, would prove more successful after a lengthy development period.

The supercharged Rolls-Royce Kestrel, and its derivative, the Peregrine was a fairly standard design, with two cylinder banks arranged in a V form and with a displacement of 21 litres (1,300 cu in). The Vulture, in effect, was two Peregrines joined by a new crankcase turning a new crankshaft, producing an X engine configuration with a displacement of 42 litres (2,600 cu in). Although the Vulture used cylinders of the same bore and stroke of the Peregrine, the redesigned cylinder blocks had increased cylinder spacing to accommodate a longer crankshaft, necessary for extra main bearings and wider crankpins.

The engine suffered from an abbreviated development period due to Rolls-Royce being required to suspend Vulture development in 1940 during the Battle of Britain to concentrate its work on the Merlin, which powered the RAF's two main fighters, the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire, and as a consequence the reliability of the Vulture when it entered service was very poor. Apart from delivering significantly less than the designed power, the Vulture suffered from frequent failures of the connecting rod big end bearings, which was found to be caused by a breakdown in lubrication, and also from heat dissipation problems. Rolls-Royce were initially confident that they could solve the problems, but in part because of its accelerated development in 1940, the company's much smaller Merlin was already nearing the same power level as the Vulture's original specification, and so production of the Vulture was discontinued after only 538 had been built.

The Vulture had been intended to power the Hawker Tornado interceptor, but with the cancellation of Vulture development, Hawker abandoned the Tornado and concentrated on the Hawker Typhoon, which was powered by the Napier Sabre. Likewise, the same cancellation caused the abandonment of the Vulture-engined version of the Vickers Warwick bomber.

The only aircraft type designed for the Vulture to actually go into production was the twin-engined Avro Manchester. When the engine reliability problems became clear, the Avro team persuaded the Air Ministry that switching to a four-Merlin version of the Manchester, which had been in development as a contingency plan, was preferable to retooling Avro's factories to make the Handley Page Halifax. The resulting aircraft was initially called the Manchester Mark III and then renamed Avro Lancaster, going on to great success as the RAF's leading heavy bomber.

This page was last edited on 17 September 2017, at 19:53.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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