Launched in response to U.S. government calls for reduced dependence on foreign oil, the upgrade is aimed at the C-130H's T56-15 Series 3, and is also expected to result in improved availability and reliability. "It will save the U.S. Air Force around $80 million per year in fuel costs," says Dennis Jarvi, president of Rolls-Royce Defense North America. The first modified T56, dubbed the 3.5 engine enhancement program, will start tests at Rolls's Indianapolis site in September. The improvement package updates the compressor inlet housing with the better flow of the Series 4 T56-427A version developed for the Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, as well as compressor-wheel knife seals derived from the same variant. The upgrade also includes remanufactured compressor blades, single-crystal first-stage high-pressure turbine blades, and aerodynamically redesigned blades and vanes throughout the low-pressure turbine. The turbine upgrade is designed to increase component life by around 30%, and "is derived from proven technologies used on existing powerplants, including the [Rolls-Royce] AE engine," says Jarvi. The large leap in fuel-burn improvement is expected because, as Jarvi concedes, the original Allison-developed T56 is "relatively old technology." The market potential is estimated to be around 2,000 engines for the C-130, though overall numbers could grow if a potential adaptation of the kit is developed for the T56-14 version that powers the P-3 maritime patrol aircraft.

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