The US Air Force (USAF) and Rolls-Royce have successfully completed test flights of the T56 Series 3.5 engine enhancement on the C-130H test aircraft, designed to lower fuel usage and improve reliability and performance.

During the testing at Edwards Air Force Base in California, US, the Series 3.5 engine demonstrated reduction in fuel consumption by 9.7% and achieved an increase of over 22% in reliability under lower operating temperatures.

Rolls-Royce Defence senior vice president Tom Hartmann said the flight test data from the USAF showed even better results than were expected.

"The USAF flight test team has confirmed that by inserting new technology we can bring dramatic improvements in fuel consumption and engine reliability to C-130 operators," Hartmann added.

Incorporating proven technologies from other Rolls-Royce engines, including new materials for blades and vanes as well as advanced aerodynamic designs for turbine airfoils, the Series 3.5 engine enhancement improves performance even in ‘hot and high’ conditions.

Designed to allow the USAF to operate its C-130H fleet until 2040, the overall engine upgrade programme is likely to help the service save more than $2bn and 10% decrease in aviation fuel consumption by 2015.

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Around 220 USAF C-130H models currently require upgrades under the programme with four T56 engines powering each aircraft.

Accelerated mission testing is currently being conducted at the company’s facilities in Indianapolis, US, and a final report on the test data is expected later this year.

The FAA certification of the new engine and qualification by the USAF are expected to take place in 2013.

Image: USAF C-130 with T56 Series 3.5 enhancement readies to take off. Photo: Rolls-Royce plc.