The US Air Force (USAF) has approved Rolls-Royce’s T56 Series 3.5 engine enhancement package for installation onboard its C-130 Hercules aircraft fleet.

Preliminary discussions between the two sides are underway and a formal contract for the upgrade is expected to be signed in the next six to nine months, reported DefenseNews.

Rolls-Royce US Air Force programmes vice-president Robert Settle said the company has already started low-rate initial production of the upgrade kits ahead of the contract award. It is looking to begin initial installations between 2015 and 2016.

"Continued progress in the US, with the air force moving forward and NOAA test flights complete, will keep that interest high and demonstrate the benefits of this upgrade," Settle said.

The company will retrofit new engine parts into the older Series 3 T56 casings. Parts such as compressor seals will be taken from Rolls-Royce’s Series 4 engine and uncooled turbine blades from AE-1107C powerplant.

Installed as part of a conventional engine overhaul, the improvements do not require any aircraft or engine control system modifications.

The engine upgrade is expected to extend the life of C-130H until 2040. It will also help the air force achieve more than $2bn in savings and a 10% decrease in aviation fuel consumption by 2015.

"The improvements do not require any aircraft or engine control system modifications."

The upgrade seeks to improve the aircraft’s performance even in ‘hot and high’ conditions.

Around 220 USAF C-130H models will be upgraded under the programme. Each aircraft has four engines.

The upgrade was already undertaken in November 2013 for the two P-3 surveillance aircraft operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Rolls-Royce is planning to display the engine enhancements at the forthcoming Farnborough International Airshow in London, UK.

The package has attracted international interest for both C-130 and P-3 aircraft, Settle added.

Image: USAF 746th Aircraft Maintenance Unit personnel remount aT56 onto a C-130H Hercules aircraft. Photo: Public domain.

Defence Technology