Rolls-Royce has completed accelerated mission testing on its Series 3.5 engine enhancement, setting the stage for upgraded engines to undergo military qualification and FAA certification before the end of 2013.
The company announced the news Wednesday. The Series 3.5 upgrades the company's T56 engines, which are equipped on the U.S. Air Force fleet of C-130s.
“Completion of the final element of testing has underlined the results from earlier flight tests and demonstrates continued success for the Series 3.5 for the T56 engine,” Tom Hartmann, Rolls-Royce, senior vice president, wrote in a statement. “The fuel savings of 9.7 percent, plus performance and reliability improvements, give operators exactly what they need. Interest from U.S. and international C-130 operators continues to grow and we look forward to U.S. Air Force qualification and FAA certification by the end of the year.”
Instead of developing a new engine, the Series 3.5 upgrade retrofits parts from newer engines into the Series 3 engine casing, replacing aging and inefficient components. These include compressor seals from Rolls' Series 4 engine and uncooled turbine blades from the Rolls AE-1107C design.
Once engineers have installed the new parts, preflight tests are run as normal and the engine is reinstalled. Because the upgrade occurs within the engine, there are no costly changes required to the C-130's cockpit or airframe, providing a cheaper alternative to a full engine replacement. The upgrade also wipes out the labor cost of maintenance, such as cleaning and repairs, on the old Series 3 parts.
The company estimates that the engine upgrades will extend the life of the C-130 fleet to 2040 and could save the Air Force as much as $2 billion. The company has expressed interest in expanding the Series 3.5 upgrade to other planes, including the Navy P-3.