Wisconsin-based engine manufacturer continues to be primary supplier of diesel engines to US Navy and US Coast Guard, while continuing its research into biofuels
With a lineage that stretches back to 1823, there are few marine OEMs that still exist today that can rival the long history of Wisconsin-based enginebuilder Fairbanks Morse (FM). Tracing its roots to a Vermont ironworks established by inventor Thaddeus Fairbanks – best known for inventing and patenting a platform scale – FM marketed the first gasoline engine, the Fairbanks-Charter, manufactured in the US in 1893, and its first in-house designed marine diesel in 1925.
From that heritage, FM has evolved into a licensee of MAN Energy Solutions and principal supplier of diesel engines to the US Navy, US Coast Guard and Canadian Coast Guard. Notable projects include its selections as the supplier of FM-MAN 48/60 engines for the US Navy’s Lewis and Clark T-AKE-1 dry cargo ship in 2001 and Colt-Pielstick 16PA6B 6.8 MW diesel engines for the Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) in 2005. Each Freedom-class LCS has two 16PA6B 6.8 MW diesel engines with two Rolls-Royce MT30 36-MW gas turbines in a combined diesel and gas (CODAG) propulsion configuration, driving four Rolls-Royce waterjets to reach speeds of 47 knots.
Offered in 12V to 20V configurations, the four-stroke FM PA6B has a cylinder bore of 280 mm, with a power range of 4,860 to 8,100 kW at 1,050 rpm in propulsion applications. Additionally, FM offers the FM 28/33D STC in the power range of 5,460 kW to 10,000 kW – the most powerful 1,000 rpm diesel engine in the world.
Over the last two decades, FM has built on its legacy as a lead supplier to the US government fleet. In March, it reported delivering four FM 6L48/60CR engines to General Dynamics NASSCO in San Diego. These engines are for USS John L. Canley (ESB 6), the sixth ship in the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command Expeditionary Transfer Dock (ESD)/Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) programme. ESBs are designed to serve as mobile sea bases for the deployment of forces and supplies.
“Several of our engines feature common rail technology, which delivers high fuel efficiency throughout the ships’ operational conditions”
In April, FM shipped a medium-speed PA6B STC engine to Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin to be installed on the first ship of the Royal Saudi Naval Forces Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC) project. The MMSC design is a derivative of the Freedom-class LCS. Defence contractor Lockheed Martin and its partner Fincantieri Marinette Marine were awarded contracts for the MMSC project, valued at US$1.9Bn, for the detail design and construction of four of the Saudi combatants.
When it comes to naval and coast guard vessel applications, lives could well depend on an engine’s performance, reliability and fuel efficiency (translating into extended range).
“Fairbanks Morse is continuously looking for ways to make our engines more efficient,” FM chief executive George Whittier told Marine Propulsion.
“Several of our engines feature common rail technology, which delivers high fuel efficiency throughout the ships’ operational conditions. Common rail technology uses a high-pressure header, high-pressure pumps, electronically controlled fuel delivery, an electronic governing system, and an advanced control system to deliver precise amounts of fuel throughout all engine operations. This results in improved performance, increased fuel efficiency, and lower emissions and generates significant cost savings for the US Navy over the operational lifetime of the engines. Through Fairbanks Morse Service, we also have a wide array of upgrades available to enhance the engine,” added Mr Whittier.
Among recent engine refinements are redesigns of the connecting rod, crankshaft, cylinder head, and liner with an anti-bore polishing ring.
Energy efficiency has increasingly become important in the commercial sector and it is no different for the defence sector. While there are no current plans for dual-fuel engine development, Mr Whittier says FM is the only engine manufacturer to have conducted alternative fuel testing on its engines in support of the US Navy’s Energy Goals Initiative.
“In partnership with Life Cycle Engineering – the company that is under contract as part of the Navy’s alternative fuel testing programme – FM developed protocols and tested the viability of several alternative fuels for use in two of our engines,” said Mr Whittier. “The objective was to qualify alternative fuels that will meet all the Navy’s current fuel specifications and make them suitable as ‘drop-in’ fuels used in the fleet without making costly changes to the engines and infrastructure.”
Testing was completed on biofuel alternatives for two of the fuels commonly used by the Navy: F-76 (diesel) and JP-5 (jet fuel). That included three separate alternative F-76 biofuel blends for the FM 38D 8 1/8 engine and an alternative JP-5 biofuel blend on the FM PA6B engine.
These biofuels are classified as hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA) fuels that can come from algae, plants and other renewable sources. The other two biofuels tested on the FM 38 D 8 1/8 were derived from plant sugars and wood. The FM PA6B engine has been tested on a blended fuel derived from alcohol, known as Alcohol to-Jet (ATJ).
If President Biden is going to advance his green agenda and meet the climate change targets outlined in the Paris Agreement, addressing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the US Department of Defense – the largest single energy consumer in the US – will be essential. However, initiatives to launch a ‘Great Green Fleet’ a decade ago during the Obama Administration proved difficult and costly. Also tricky will be advancing the President’s green agenda without compromising the US Navy’s warfighter capability in an era of constrained military budgets.
To support after-sales service for its engines, FM has one of the world’s largest crews of factory-certified, OEM technicians, according to Mr Whittier. Also key to repair and maintenance support are FM’s recent acquisitions of BRECO International and Ward Leonard, and its asset agreement with Globe Turbocharger which “vastly expands our critical parts inventory”, he said.
“At the same time, we are expanding our geographic footprint with the opening of FM’s Jacksonville Service Centre in Florida,” said Mr Whittier.
Through its Service Life Extension Programme, FM is working with the US Coast Guard on aftermarket service. The company’s most recent indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract with the US Coast Guard enables FM to maximise and improve engine lifecycle support for the WMEC Famous-class Cutters.
Much like commercial engine manufacturers and designers, FM is implementing digital tools to support the repair and maintenance of its engines.
“We also have a dedicated team developing solutions for our engines, including remote monitoring and virtual technical support,” said Mr Whittier. “Through FM OnBoard – our augmented reality technology – FM customers can instantly work remotely with our live factory-certified, OEM technicians, who have experienced the industry’s most rigorous qualifications to earn and maintain certification and continually raise the bar on service excellence standards.”
FM OnBoard’s virtual tools and services allow interactive training, parts identification, guided maintenance, diagnosis and planning, technical support, record evidence and visualisation internet-of-things sensor data.