Military Wiki
Preserved Rolls-Royce Derwent.

The Rolls-Royce RB.37 Derwent is a 1940s British centrifugal compressor turbojet engine, the second Rolls-Royce jet engine to enter production. Essentially an improved version of the Rolls-Royce Welland, itself a renamed version of Frank Whittle's Power Jets W.2B, Rolls inherited the Derwent design from Rover when they took over their jet engine development in 1943. Performance over the Welland was somewhat improved, reliability dramatically, making the Derwent the chosen engine for the Gloster Meteor and many other post-World War II British jet designs.

Design and development


When Rover was selected for production of Whittle's designs in 1941 they set up their main jet factory at Barnoldswick, staffed primarily by various Power Jets personnel. Rover felt their own engineers were better at everything, and also set up a parallel effort at Waterloo Mill, Clitheroe. Here Adrian Lombard developed the W.2 into a production quality design, angering Whittle who was left out of the team. Lombard went on to become the Chief Engineer of the Aero Engine Division of Rolls-Royce for years to come.

After a short period Lombard decided to dispense with Whittle's "reverse flow" design, and instead lay out the engine in a "straight-through" flow with the hot gas exiting directly onto the turbine instead of being piped forward as in Whittle's version. This layout made the engine somewhat longer and required a redesign of the nacelles on the Meteor, but also made the gas flow simpler and thereby improved reliability. While work at Barnoldswick continued on what was now known as the W.2B/23, Lombard's new design became the W.2B/26.


By 1941 it was obvious to all that the arrangement was not working; Whittle was constantly frustrated by what he was seeing as Rover's inability to deliver production-quality parts for a test engine, and became increasingly vocal about his complaints. Likewise Rover was losing interest in the project after the delays and constant harassment from Power Jets in the critical testing process stage, where testing new designs and materials to breaking point is vital. Earlier, in 1940, Stanley Hooker of Rolls-Royce had met with Whittle, and later introduced him to Rolls' CEO, Ernest Hives. Rolls had a fully developed supercharger division, directed by Hooker, which was naturally suited to jet engine work. Hives agreed to supply key parts to help the project along. Eventually Spencer Wilks of Rover met with Hives and Hooker, and decided to trade the jet factory at Barnoldswick for Rolls' Meteor tank engine factory in Nottingham. A handshake sealed the deal, turning Rolls-Royce into the powerhouse it remains to this day. Subsequent Rolls-Royce jet engines would be designated in an "RB" series, standing for Rolls Barnoldswick, the /26 Derwent becoming the RB.26.

Problems were soon ironed out, and the original /23 design was ready for flight by late 1943. This gave the team some breathing room, so they redesigned the /26's inlets for increased air flow, and thus thrust. Adding improved fuel and oil systems, the newly named Derwent Mk.I entered production with 2,000 lbf (8.9 kN) of thrust. Mk.II, III and IV's followed, peaking at 2,400 lbf (10.7 kN) of thrust. The Derwent was the primary engine of all the early Meteors with the exception of the small number of Welland-equipped models which were quickly removed from service. The Mk.II was also modified with an extra turbine stage[citation needed] driving a gearbox and, eventually, a five-bladed propeller, forming the first production turboprop engine, the Rolls-Royce RB.50 Trent.


The basic Derwent design was also used to produce a larger 5,000 lbf (22.2 kN) thrust engine known as the Rolls-Royce Nene. Development of the Nene continued in a scaled-down version specifically for use on the Meteor, and to avoid the stigma of the earlier design, this was named the Derwent Mk.V. Several Derwents and Nenes were sold to the Soviet Union by the then Labour government, causing a major political row, as it was the most powerful production-turbojet in the world at the time. The Soviets promptly reverse engineered the Derwent V and produced their own unlicensed version, the Klimov RD-500. The Nene was reverse-engineered to form the populsion unit for the famous MiG-15 jet fighter. The Derwent Mk.V was also used on the Canadian Avro Jetliner, but this was never put into production.

On 7 November 1945, a Meteor powered by the Derwent V set a world air speed record of 606 mph (975 km/h) TAS.

An unusual application of the Derwent V was to propel the former paddle steamer Lucy Ashton. The 1888 ship had her steam machinery removed and replaced by four Derwents in 1950–1951. The purpose of this was to conduct research on the friction and drag produced by a ship hull in real life conditions. Jets were preferable to marine propellers or paddles as these would have created a disturbance in the water, and the force exerted by them was harder to measure. The four engines could propel the Lucy Ashton at a speed in excess of 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph).[1]


  • Derwent I - first production version, 2,000 lbf (8.9 kN) of thrust
  • Derwent II - thrust increased to 2,200 lbf (9.8 kN)
  • Derwent III - experimental variant providing vacuum for wing boundary layer control
  • Derwent IV - thrust increased to 2,400 lbf (10.7 kN)
  • Derwent 5 - scaled-down version of the Rolls-Royce Nene developing 3,500 lbf (15.6 kN) of thrust
  • Derwent 8 - developed version giving 3,600 lbf (16.0 kN) of thrust


Specifications (Derwent I)

Data from [2]

General characteristics
  • Type: Centrifugal compressor turbojet
  • Length: 84 in (2,133.6 mm), Derwent V 88.5 in (2,247.9 mm)
  • Diameter: 43 in (1,092.2 mm)
  • Dry weight: 975 lb (442.3 kg), Derwent V 1,250 lb (567.0 kg)
  • Compressor: 1-stage double-sided centrifugal compressor
  • Combustors: 10 x can combustion chambers
  • Turbine: Single-stage axial
  • Fuel type: Kerosene (R.D.E.F./F/KER)
  • Oil system: pressure feed, dry sump with scavenge, cooling and filtration, oil grade 150 S.U. secs (32 cs) (Intavia 7106) at 38 °C (100 °F)
  • Maximum thrust: 2,000 lbf (8.90 kN) at 16,000 rpm at sea level, Derwent V 4,000 lbf (17.79 kN) at 15,000 rpm at sea level
  • Overall pressure ratio: 3.9:1
  • Turbine inlet temperature: 1,560 °F (849 °C)
  • Specific fuel consumption: 1.17 lb/lbf/hr (119.25 kg/kN/hr), Derwent V 1.02 1.28 lb/lbf/hr (103.97 kg/kN/hr)
  • Thrust-to-weight ratio: 2.04 lbf/lb (0.0199 kN/kg), Derwent V 3.226 1.724 lbf/lb (0.0316 kN/kg)
  • Military, static: 2,000 lbf (8.90 kN) at 16,600 rpm at sea level, Derwent V 3,500 lbf (15.57 kN) at 14,600 rpm at sea level
  • Cruising, static: 1,550 lbf (6.89 kN) at 15,400 rpm at sea level, Derwent V 3,000 lbf (13.34 kN) at 14,000 rpm at sea level
  • Idling, static: 120 lbf (0.53 kN) at 5,500 rpm at sea level, Derwent V 120 lbf (0.53 kN) at 5,500 rpm at sea level

See also


  1. "The Jet-Propelled Paddle Steamer Lucy Ashton.". 30 June 2003. Retrieved January 3, 2013. 
  2. Wilkinson, Paul H. (1946). Aircraft Engines of the world 1946. London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons. pp. 294–297. 
  • Bridgman, L, (ed.) Jane's fighting aircraft of World War II. London: Crescent, 1998. ISBN 0-517-67964-7
  • Kay, Anthony L. (2007). Turbojet History and Development 1930-1960. 1 (1st ed.). Ramsbury: The Crowood Press. ISBN 978-1-86126-912-6. 
  • Flight 1945
  • Wilkinson, Paul H. (1946). Aircraft Engines of the world 1946. London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons. pp. 294–297. 

External links

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).