WP-3D aircraft

Rolls-Royce‘s first enhanced T56 turboprop engine has successfully demonstrated more than 13% fuel reduction during ground testing aboard the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) WP-3D aircraft.

Also known as the Series 3.5, the engine has already displayed significant improvement over requirements, which call for a 7.9% fuel reduction, during flight tests and engine ground tests onboard the US Air Force’s (USAF) C-130 aircraft in October 2012.

Rolls-Royce Defense president Tom Bell said the company has now started discussions to insert the technology improvement into the USAF transport fleet.

"A USAF study concluded this innovative technology would save the service $2 billion and extend the life of the fleet for decades," Bell said.

An initial funding of $15.7m for the engine enhancement package was approved by US Congress last month, which will launch the technology insertion for the USAF, Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard (ANG) fleets.

Installed as part of a conventional engine overhaul, the T56 Series 3.5 engine enhancement do not require any aircraft or engine control system modifications, and is expected to help the air force achieve more than $2bn in savings and a 10% decrease in aviation fuel consumption by 2015.

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"A USAF study concluded this innovative technology would save the service $2 billion and extend the life of the fleet for decades."

Apart from reduced fuel consumption, the package also allows T56 engines to operate at significantly lower turbine temperatures, which eventually extend parts life and improve reliability by 22%.

Having secured Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) certification for the commercial version of the T56 engine, the enhancement package is in the final stages of completing all requirements for USAF qualification on the C-130 tactical transport fleet.

Deliveries of the new engine enhancement packages to the air force are expected to start in 2016.

In addition to USAF and NOAA, other international C-130 and P-3 operators are considering T56 engine enhancement incorporation into their fleets.

Image: NOAA’s WP-3D will be the first aircraft to fly the Rolls-Royce T56 engine enhancement. Photo: © Rolls-Royce plc 2014.

Defence Technology