The U.S. Air Force has begun flight tests of the upgraded Rolls-Royce T56 on a C-130H, which could help extend the service life of the transport to 2040.

Flight tests of the T56 Series 3.5 enhancement package are taking place at Edwards AFB, Calif., using an Air National Guard-operated Lockheed Martin C-130H. Testing aims to verify a predicted fuel burn improvement of around 8%, as well as assessing flying qualities and improved payload capability.

Rolls says the upgrade already has demonstrated a “greater than 8%” improvement in fuel burn during ground tests in Indianapolis. The 3.5 kit is also designed to increase overall engine life by around 10%. As a trade-off against the extended life option, the engine manufacturer says the upgrade can also be used to generate up to 9% more power for improved hot and high performance.

The kit, which can be fitted as part of a standard overhaul, consists of remanufactured compressor blades, single-crystal, first-stage high-pressure turbine blades, and aerodynamically redesigned blades and vanes throughout the low-pressure turbine.

The Series 3.5 program is expected to contribute to the Air Force’s goal of reducing consumption of aviation fuel by 10% by 2015, and according to a service study, could assist with long-term savings of around $2 billion over the lifetime of the fleet.

Rolls says around 220 C-130Hs could be eligible for the upgrade, which the company adds could also be potentially adapted for the T56-14 version that powers the P-3 maritime patrol aircraft.