The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded a $36m contract to Rolls-Royce to update its C-130 transport fleet with the Rolls-Royce T56 Series 3.5 engine.

Under this contract, Rolls-Royce will deliver Series 3.5 kit in December to introduce the engine improvements into the USAF and US Air National Guard C-130s.

Rolls-Royce Defense Aerospace North America president Phil Burkholder said: "The T56 Series 3.5 technology has proven itself in challenging hurricane flight operations on NOAA aircraft and we are excited to launch the upgrades into the US Air Force C-130 fleet so they can achieve the same benefits.

"The improved fuel economy and enhanced performance demonstrate the value from the Series 3.5 upgrade, operators will benefit from lower operating costs and improved reliability."

This upgrade will enable T56 engines to operate at reduced temperatures and extend part life as well as enhance reliability by 22%.

In addition, the Series 3.5 upgrade will offer improved ‘hot and high’ performance, the company stated.

The Series 3.5 can be installed on T56 engines on either C-130 or P-3 legacy aircraft and also added during regular overhauls.

"The improved fuel economy and enhanced performance demonstrate the value from the Series 3.5 upgrade."

Built by Lockheed Martin, the C-130 Hercules is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft designed to support airborne assault, search-and-rescue, scientific research support, weather reconnaissance, maritime patrol and aerial firefighting missions.

Powered by four Allison AE2100D3 turboprop engines, the heavy-lift tactical cargo and personnel transport aircraft is capable of accommodating a payload of up to 20t, or more than 90 passengers.

According to Rolls-Royce, the T56 Series 3.5 engine improvement package has already completed all requirements for USAF qualification on the C-130.

The USAF estimates that the engine enhancement of C-130 would save $2bn in addition to extending the fleet life.

Image: A USAF C-130E Hercules flies over the Atlantic Ocean. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Howard Blair.