NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Rolls-Royce's eight-year effort to develop the T56 Series 3.5 engine upgrade is about to pay off, with the US Air Force expected to finalize a contract for 12 kits for installation into the legacy C-130 fleet later this month.

Rolls-Royce anticipates a $38 million contract with the Air Force for the first 12 kits by the end of the month and another order of 38 upgrade packages by the end of the year, according to Tom Hartmann, Rolls-Royce company senior vice president of customer business. The kits will be delivered in fiscal years 2016 and 2017FY-17, he said. The contract will follow the Pentagon’s decision to approve production of the engine upgrade earlier this month, dubbed Milestone C.

The upcoming contract kicks off what is expected to be a long-running agreement with the Air Force to upgrade the entire fleet of 400 C-130E and C-130H engines. The Milestone C decision also allows Rolls-Royce to move forward with negotiations for foreign military sales of the upgrade kits. Hartmann declined to specify which FMS customers the company is working with, but all the countries that operate Lockheed Martin's C-130 – including Canada, Norway, India and UAE – are potential customers.

Rolls-Royce is also targeting the P-3 Orion submarine hunters, which also use the T56 engine developed by the company, Hartmann said.

The 3.5 upgrade will improve fuel consumption by at least 8 a minimum of eightpercent and increases time-on-wing by about 30 percent, Hartmann said. The kit is "completely plug-and-play," and can easily be installed during regular maintenance of the older engines, which takes about 30-45 days. 

The Air Force estimates fully implementing the 3.5 across the service's C-130Hs will save $2 billion by the end of the fleet's service life, Hartmann noted. This is a good financial choice for the Air Force because Rolls-Royce has already paid to design and engineer the upgrade, he added.

Even if the Pentagon is forced to operate next year under a long-term continuing resolution, the Air Force will still have enough money to buy additional upgrade kits next year, Hartmann said.

"We are waiting with eager anticipation for the next tranche," Hartmann said. "We hope now … they can start budgeting it on a regular basis for some increment of kits each year."

Email: lseligman@defensenews.com

Twitter: @laraseligman

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