Rolls-Royce Olympus

Rolls-Royce Olympus
Preserved Bristol Siddeley Olympus Mk 301 Engine Change Unit (ECU) complete with ancillaries and bulkheads.
Type Turbojet
National origin United Kingdom
Manufacturer Bristol Aero Engines
Bristol Siddeley Engines Limited
Rolls-Royce Bristol Engine Division
First run 1950
Major applications Avro Vulcan
Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde
Developed into Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus 593
Curtiss-Wright J67

The Rolls-Royce Olympus (originally the Bristol B.E.10 Olympus) was one of the world's first two-spool axial-flow turbojet aircraft engines, originally developed and produced by Bristol Aero Engines. First running in 1950, its initial use was as the powerplant of the Avro Vulcan V Bomber. The design was further developed for supersonic performance as part of the BAC TSR-2 programme. Later it saw production as the Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus 593, the powerplant for Concorde SST. Versions of the engine were licenced to Curtiss-Wright in the USA as the TJ-32 or J67 (military designation) and the TJ-38 'Zephyr'. The Olympus was also developed with success as a marine and industrial gas turbine.

Bristol Aero Engines (formerly Bristol Engine Company) merged with Armstrong Siddeley Motors in 1959 to form Bristol Siddeley Engines Limited (BSEL) which in turn was taken over by Rolls-Royce in 1966.

As of 2011, the Olympus remains in service as both a marine and industrial gas turbine. It also powers the restored Avro Vulcan XH558.




At the end of World War II, the Bristol Engine Company’s major effort was the development of the Hercules and Centaurus radial piston engines. By the end of 1946, the company had only 10 hours experience of turbojet experience with a small experimental engine called the Phoebus which was the gas generator or core of the Proteus turboprop then in development.[1] In early 1947, the parent Bristol Aeroplane Company submitted a proposal for a medium-range bomber to the same specification B46/35 which led to the Avro Vulcan and Handley Page Victor. The Bristol design was the Type 172 and was to be powered by four or six Bristol engines of 9,000 lbf (40 kN) thrust.[2]

The thrust required of the new engine, then designated B.E.10 (later Olympus), would initially be 9,000 lbf (40 kN) with growth potential to 12,000 lbf (53 kN). The pressure ratio would be an unheard of 9:1.[3] To achieve this, the initial design used a low pressure (LP) axial compressor and a high pressure (HP) centrifugal compressor, each being driven by its own single-stage turbine. This two-spool design made the compression more manageable, enabled faster acceleration, and reduced surge. The design was progressively modified and the centrifugal HP compressor was replaced by an axial HP compressor. This reduced the diameter of the new engine to the design specification of 40 in (100 cm). The Bristol Type 172 was cancelled though development continued for the Avro Vulcan and other projects.[4]

Initial Development

Gas-flow diagram of Olympus Mk 101.

The first engine, its development designation being BOl.1 (Bristol Olympus 1), had six LP compressor stages and eight HP stages, each driven by a single-stage turbine. The combustion system was novel in that ten connected flame tubes were housed within a cannular system: a hybrid of separate flame cans and a true annular system. Separate combustion cans would have exceeded the diameter beyond the design limit and a true annular system was considered too advanced.[5]

In 1950, Dr (later Sir) Stanley Hooker was appointed as Chief Engineer of Bristol Aero Engines.[5]

The BOl.1 first ran in May 1950 and produced 9,140 lbf (40.7 kN) thrust. The next development was the BOl.1/2 which produced 9,500 lbf (42 kN) thrust in December 1950. Examples of the similar BOl.1/2A were constructed for US manufacturer Curtiss-Wright which had bought a licence for developing the engine as the TJ-32 or J67. The somewhat revised BOl.1/2B, ran in December 1951 producing 9,750 lbf (43.4 kN) thrust.[6] The engine was by now ready for air testing and the first flight engines, designated Olympus Mk 99, were fitted into a Canberra WD952 which first flew with these engines derated to 8,000 lbf (36 kN) thrust in August 1952. In May 1953, this aircraft reached a world record altitude of 63,668 ft (19,406 m).[7] (Fitted with more powerful Mk 102 engines, the Canberra increased the record to 65,876 ft (20,079 m) in August 1955.[8])

First-generation Engines

Preserved Bristol Olympus 101.

Olympus 100 series

These are service designations. Development designations are given in brackets.

Avro Vulcan B1 and B1A

  • Olympus Mk 100: (BOl.1/2B) Similar to Olympus Mk 99 rated at 9,250 lbf (41.1 kN) thrust for second Vulcan prototype VX777.First flew September 1953.[9] VX777 was retrofitted with Mk 101 engines.[10]
  • Olympus Mk 101: (BOl.1/2C) Larger turbine, 11,000 lbf (49 kN) thrust for initial production Vulcan B1 aircraft. First flew (XA889) February 1955.[10]
  • Olympus Mk 102: (BOl.11) Additional zero stage on LP compressor, 12,000 lbf (53 kN) thrust for later production Vulcan B1 aircraft.[11]
  • Olympus Mk 104: (BOl.12) Designation for Olympus Mk 102 modified on overhaul with new turbine and burners, 13,000 lbf (58 kN) thrust initially, 13,500 lbf (60 kN) thrust on uprating,[11] standard on Vulcan B1A.[12]
  • 'Olympus 106': Used to describe the development engine for the Olympus 200 (BOl.6).[13][14] Possibly a corruption of BOl.6 (Olympus 6).

Other developments

  • Olympus 3: Of all the early initial developments, BOl.2 to BOl.5 (the BOl.5 was never built[15]), perhaps the most significant was the BOl.3. Even before the Vulcan first flew, the Olympus 3 was being suggested as the definitive powerplant for the aircraft. In the event, the 'original' Olympus was continuously developed for the Vulcan B1. The BOl.3 was described in 1957 as "a high-ended product intermediate between the Olympus 100 and 200 series."[16]
  • Olympus Mk 97: This early engine tested an early annular combustion chamber. It was test flown on Bristol's Avro Ashton test bed WB493.[17]
  • Afterburning: As early as 1952, Bristols had considered the use of reheat, or afterburning, to augment the thrust of the Olympus. Initially, a system called Bristol Simplifed Reheat was devised which was tested on a Rolls-Royce Derwent V mounted in an Avro Lincoln. Later it was tested on an Orenda engine in Canada and on an Olympus Mk 100 in the Avro Ashton test bed.[18] Fully variable reheat became possible after an agreement with the Solar Aircraft Company of San Diego which manufactured bench units for the Olympus Mks 101 and 102.[18]

Second-generation Engines

Avro Vulcan XJ784 at CFB Bagotville in 1978. It is powered by four Olympus Mk 301 engines, identified by their shorter and wider jet pipe nozzles.[19]

The initial design of the second generation 'Olympus 6' began in 1952. This was a major redesign with five LP and seven HP compressor stages and a canullar combustor with eight interconected flame tubes. In spite of a much greater mass flow, the size and weight of the BOl.6 was little different to earlier models.[20]

Rival manufacturers Rolls-Royce lobbied very hard to have its Conway engine installed in the Vulcan B2 to achieve commonality with the Victor B2. As a consequence, Bristols undertook to to complete development using company funds and peg the price to that of its fully government-funded rival.[21]

Olympus 200 series and Olympus Mk 301

Avro Vulcan B2

  • Olympus Mk 200: (BOl.6) 16,000 lbf (71 kN) thrust. First B2 (XH533) only.[22]
  • Olympus Mk 201: (BOl.7) Uprated Olympus Mk 200. 17,000 lbf (76 kN) thrust. Initial Vulcan B2 aircraft.[22]
  • Olympus Mk 202: Disputed. Either Olympus Mk 201 modified with rapid air starter,[23] or Olympus Mk 201 with redesigned oil separator breathing system.[24] This was the definitive '200 series' engine fitted to Vulcans not fitted with the Mk 301. The restored Vulcan XH558 is fitted with Olympus Mk 202 engines.[25]
  • 'Olympus Mk 203': Very occasional reference to this elusive mark of engine can be found in some official Air Publications relating to the Vulcan B2. It is also noted in a manufacturer's archived document dated circa 1960.[26]
  • Olympus Mk 301: (BOl.21) Additional zero stage on LP compressor. 20,000 lbf (89 kN) thrust.[27] Later Vulcan B2 aircraft plus nine earlier aircraft[N 1] retrofitted.[28] Later derated to 18,000 lbf (80 kN) thrust.[29] Restored to original rating for Operation Black Buck.[30]

Civilianised Olympus

Plans to civilianise the Olympus go back as far as 1953 with the unveiling of the Avro Atlantic airliner based upon the Vulcan.[31] However, most of the civilian derivatives, except for supersonic airliners, were developed from the BOl.6. These include:

  • Olympus 510 series: With a thrust in the region of 15,000 lbf (67 kN) to 19,000 lbf (85 kN), the 510 series were civilianised versions of the BOl.6.[32] A team was sent to Boeing at Seattle to promote the engine in 1956 but without success.[33]
  • Olympus 551: The Olympus 551 'Zephyr' was a derated and lightened version of the BOl.6 and rated at 13,500 lbf (60 kN) thrust. The engine was the subject of a licence agreement between Bristol Aero Engines and the Curtiss-Wright Corporation - the engine being marketed in the USA as the Curtiss-Wright TJ-38 Zephyr. There were hopes to fit the Olympus 551 to the Avro Type 740 and Bristol Type 200 trijet airliners which did not progress beyond the project stage. Curtiss-Wright also failed to market the engine.[34]

Thin-wing Javelin

One project that got beyond the drawing board was a supersonic development of the Gloster Javelin, the P370, powered by two BOl.6, 7, or 7SR engines. The design evolved into the P376 with two BOl.21R engines rated at 28,500 lbf (127 kN) with reheat. Eighteen aircraft were ordered in 1955. The project was abandoned the following year.[35]

TSR-2 Olympus Mk 320

Olympus Mk 320 at the RAF Museum, Cosford.

The performance specification for TSR2 was issued in 1962. It was to be powered by two BSEL Olympus Mk 320 (BOl.22R) engines rated at 30,610 lbf (136.2 kN) with reheat at take-off. The engine was a cutting edge derivative of the Olympus Mk 301 with a Solar-type afterburner.[36] The engine first ran in March 1961 and was test flown in February 1962 underslung Vulcan B1 XA894 and was demonstrated at the Farnborough Air Show in September. In December 1962 during a full power ground run at Filton, the engine blew up, completely destroying its host Vulcan in the subsequent fire.[37]

On its first flight in September 1964 the engines of the TSR-2 were scarcely flightworthy being derated and cleared for one flight. Nevertheless, the risk was deemed acceptable in the political climate of the time. With new engines, the TSR-2 flew another 23 times before the project was cancelled in 1965.[38]

Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus 593

The Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus 593 was a reheated version of the Olympus which powered the supersonic airliner Concorde.[39] The Olympus 593 project was started in 1964, using the TSR2's Olympus Mk 320 as a basis for development.[40] BSEL and Snecma Moteurs of France were to share the project.[39] Acquiring BSEL in 1966, Rolls-Royce continued as the British partner.[41]

  • 593D D = 'development'. Formerly Olympus 593. 28,100 lbf (125 kN) thrust.[42]
  • 593B B = 'big'. Flight test and prototype aircraft. 34,370 lbf (152.9 kN) thrust with reheat.[43]
  • 593-602 Production. Annular combustion chamber to reduce smoke[44]
  • 593-610 Last production. 38,075 lbf (169.37 kN) thrust with reheat.[45]

Curtiss-Wright Derivatives

  • TJ-32 - J67 Examples of the BOl.1/2A were delivered to Curtiss-Wright in 1950. The engine was Americanised during 1951 and flew under a Boeing B-29 testbed as the TJ-32. To meet a USAF demand for an engine in the 15000 lb thrust class, the engine was the subject of a development contract, redesigned and designated J67. Development was protracted and in 1955, the USAF announced that there would be no production contract for the present J67. Several aircraft had been intended to receive the J67 including the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger.[46]
  • T47 The T47 was an attempt to produce a turboprop based upon the J67.[47]
  • TJ-38 Zephyr: See Olympus 551 (above).

Other Proposed Aircraft Applications

Over the years, the Olympus was proposed for numerous other applications including:

  • C104 which led to the C105 Avro Arrow: BOl.3[16]
  • Avro 718: BOl.3[48]
  • Avro 739 to OR339 (the requirement that culminated in TSR2): BOl.21R[49][48]
  • Avro 740: 3 x Mk 551[48]
  • Avro 750: 2 x Mk 551[48]
  • Avro Vulcan Phase 6 (B3): BOl.23, a development of the Mk 301.[49] BOl.21/2, Mk 301 modified with aft fan.[50]
  • Bristol T172: B.E.10[49]
  • Bristol T177[49]
  • Bristol T180[49]
  • Bristol T198: Mk 591. Early supersonic airliner design (132 seats). The engine was a civilianised BOl.22R.[49]
  • Bristol T201: Mk 551[49]
  • Bristol T202[49]
  • Bristol T204 to OR339: BOl.22SR (simplified reheat)[49]
  • Bristol T205: Mark 551[49]
  • Bristol T213[49]
  • Bristol T223: Mk 593. Later supersonic airliner design (100 seats). Engine as Mk 591 with zero stage LP compressor and cooled HP turbine.[49]
  • De Havilland design to OR339: BOl.14R, BOl.15R. Developed from BOl.6R.[49]
  • Handley Page HP98: Pathfinder variant of Victor.[49]
  • Handley Page Victor B1: Mk 104[49]
  • Handley Page Victor Phase 3[49]
  • Handley Page HP107[49]
  • Handley Page Pacific[49]
  • Hawker P.1121: BOl.21R[49]
  • Hawker P.1129 to OR339: BOl.15R[49]
  • General Dynamics RB-57F: Mk 701 developed from Mk 301.[49]
  • Gloster P492/3: Mk 591[49]
  • Republic F-105 Thunderchief: BOl.21 for possible sale to RAF.[49]
  • SAAB 36[51]
  • SAAB 37 Viggen[52]
  • Vickers VC10: Development of Mk 555 with aft fan.[49]

Marine Propulsion

HMS Exmouth, the first warship to be entirely propelled by gas turbines.

The first marine Olympus was built for the German Navy. In 1962 BSEL was contracted to provide the gas-generator and Brown Boveri was contracted to provide a two-stage long-life marine power turbine. A test bed was built for extensive shore trials. Construction of the ship which was intended for gas-turbine power was abandoned. Test running of the next marine Olympus began in 1966. The power turbine was of a single stage operating at 5600 rpm utilising wide-chord blades. Beginning its sea trials in early 1968, the Turunmaa, a 700 ton corvette of the Finnish Navy was the first Olympus-powered warship to enter service, some six months before HMS Exmouth, the first British ship which had been refitted to trial the propulsion system for the Royal Navy.[53]

Olympus TM1/TM1A

22,300 shp (16,600 kW) nominal. Installed ratings quoted where known.

  • Finnish Navy
    • Turunmaa class corvettes — one Olympus, three diesel.[53]
  • Royal Navy
    • HMS Exmouth — one Olympus derated to 15,000 shp (11,000 kW), two Proteus.[53]
    • Type 82 destroyer, HMS Bristol — two Olympus, two steam turbines.[53]

Olympus TM3B

28,000 shp (21,000 kW) nominal. Installed ratings quoted where known.

  • Royal Navy
    • Invincible class aircraft carriers — four Olympus at 25,000 shp (19,000 kW).[54]
    • Type 42 destroyers — two Olympus at 25,000 shp (19,000 kW), two Tyne.[54][55]
    • Type 21 frigates — two Olympus at 28,000 shp (21,000 kW), two Tyne.[54]
    • Type 22 frigates Batch 1 and 2 — two Olympus, two Tyne.[56]
  • Iranian Navy
    • Alvand class frigates — two Olympus (TM3A) at 23,000 shp (17,000 kW), two diesel.[59]
  • Royal Thai Navy
    • HTMS Makut Rajakumarn frigate — one Olympus at 19,500 shp (14,500 kW), one diesel.[61]
  • French Navy
    • Georges Leygues class destroyers — two Olympus at 26,000 shp (19,000 kW), two diesel.[64]

Industrial Power Generation

The Olympus entered service as a peak demand industrial power generator in 1962 when the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) commissioned a single prototype installation at its Hams Hall power station. Power was provided by an Olympus 201 exhausting through a two stage turbine powering a Brush synchronous alternator providing 20 MW at 3000 rpm. By 1972, the CEGB had installed 42 Olympus generating sets.[69]

Many sets were exported and many found use on offshore platforms. By 1990, over 320 sets had been sold to 21 countries,[70] many of which remain in service.

Exhibits on Display

Specifications Olympus 101

Data from The Operational Olympus Flight and Lecture Notes, Vulcan Bristol Aero Engine School

General characteristics

  • Type: Axial flow two-spool turbojet
  • Length: 152.2 in (387 cm)
  • Diameter: 40 in (100 cm)
  • Dry weight: 3,615 lb (1,640 kg)


  • Compressor: Axial 6 LP pressure stages, 8 HP stages
  • Combustors: Cannular 10 flame tubes
  • Turbine: HP single stage, LP single stage
  • Fuel type: AVTUR or AVTAG


See also

Related development

Comparable engines
  • Pratt & Whitney J75
Related lists


  1. ^ XH557 (flight test), XJ784 (certification), XL384-390 (retrofit programme)
  1. ^ Baxter 1990 pp 10-13
  2. ^ Baxter 1990 pp 13,18
  3. ^ Baxter 1990 p 13
  4. ^ Baxter 1990 pp 16, 18
  5. ^ a b Baxter 1990 p 18
  6. ^ Baxter 1990 p 20
  7. ^ Baxter 1990 pp 22,24
  8. ^ Baxter 1990 p 32
  9. ^ Baxter 1990 p 42
  10. ^ a b Baxter 1990 p 44
  11. ^ a b Baxter 1990 p 46
  12. ^ Pilots Notes AP 4505C—PN
  13. ^ Bristol Olympus Flight 9 December 1955 p 876
  14. ^ Blackman 2007 p 101
  15. ^ Baxter 1990 p 173
  16. ^ a b Arrow Flight 25 October 1957 p 647
  17. ^ Baxter 1990 p 33
  18. ^ a b Baxter 1990 p 26
  19. ^ Bulman 2001 p 146
  20. ^ 16,000 lb Thrust Flight 15 February 1957 p 200
  21. ^ Baxter 1990 p 36
  22. ^ a b Baxter 1990 p 50
  23. ^ Baxter 1990 p 66
  24. ^ Air Publication 101B-1902-1A Vulcan B Mk.2 Aircraft Servicing Manual Cover 2, Sect 4, Chap 1, AL 86, Sept '72, Para 54A.
  25. ^ CAA Airworthiness Approval Note 27038 section 5.2.4 Engines.
  26. ^ Archives of the National Archive, PA1716/5/11/3/5.
  27. ^ Baxter 1990 p 58
  28. ^ Bulman 2001 pp 149 & 150
  29. ^ Aircrew Manual AP101B-1902-15 Prelim p 10
  30. ^ Baxter 1990 p 70
  31. ^ Baxter 1990 p 40
  32. ^ Aero Engines 1957 Flight 26 July 1957 p 114
  33. ^ Baxter 1990 p 36
  34. ^ Baxter 1990 pp 36-40
  35. ^ Baxter 1990 pp 28 & 172
  36. ^ Baxter 1990 pp 78, 80
  37. ^ Baxter 1990 pp 80-86
  38. ^ Baxter 1990 pp 96-100
  39. ^ a b Baxter 1990 p 131
  40. ^ Baxter 1990 p 135
  41. ^ Baxter 1990 p 11
  42. ^ Baxter 1990 p 135
  43. ^ Baxter 1990 p149
  44. ^ Baxter 1990 p 153
  45. ^ Baxter 1990 p 165
  46. ^ Bristol Olympus Flight 9 December 1955 p 875
  47. ^ Aero Engines 1954 Flight 9 April 1954 p 462
  48. ^ a b c d [1] Avro Type List [2] Avro Heritage
  49. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Baxter 1990 p 172
  50. ^ Addendum to Avro Brochure IPB 104
  51. ^ Wikipedia article quoting Berns, Lennart A36 - SAABs atombombare avslöjad, Flygrevyn issue #4, April 1991
  52. ^ [3] Historien om Viggen [4] Protec 2005 No 4
  53. ^ a b c d Baxter 1990 p 101
  54. ^ a b c d e Baxter 1990 p 107
  55. ^ Type 42 guided missile destroyer
  56. ^ a b Baxter 1990 p 115
  57. ^ Almirante Brown class
  58. ^ [FF Aradu (MEKO 360) class'
  59. ^ Potts 2011 IRIS Alvand Light Frigate
  60. ^ KD Rahmat quoting Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1947-1995
  61. ^ HTMS Makut Rajakumarn quoting Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1947-1995
  62. ^ Libyan frigate Dat Assawari quoting Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1947-1995
  63. ^ Baxter 1990 p 111
  64. ^ Georges Leygues class destroyer quoting Miller, David; Chris Miller (1986). Modern Naval Combat. USA: Salamandar Books. pp. 100–101. ISBN 0-517-61350-6.
  65. ^ Weilingen
  66. ^ Kortenaer class frigate quoting Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1947-1995
  67. ^ Jacob van Heemskerck class frigate quoting Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1947-1995
  68. ^ Yubari class destroyer escort quoting Jane's Fighting Ships 2005-2006.
  69. ^ Baxter 1990 pp 110-123
  70. ^ Baxter 1990 p 131
  • Baxter, Alan. Olympus — the first forty years. Derby, UK: Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust, 1990. ISBN 978-0951171097.
  • Blackman, Tony. Vulcan Test Pilot. London, UK: Grub Street, 2009. ISBN 9781906502300
  • Bullman, Craig. The Vulcan B.Mk2 from a Different Angle. Bishop-Auckland, UK: Pentland Books, 2001. ISBN 1 85821-899-3

External links

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