B-52 gets ‘eternal’ life with new engines

The Pentagon has awarded the American division of Rolls Royce the contract for new engines for the Boeing B-52 bombers. The $2.6 billion deal marks a milestone in this long-term project.

The USAF has more than 70 B-52H bombers. These aircraft are all at least sixty years old, as are the engines. The TF33 turbofans are outdated, noisy and thirsty. For years the US Air Force is considering renewing these engines. An important reason for replacement is a reduction in fuel consumption of 20-40%. New engines will also be a lot more maintenance-friendly.

Each B-52 is equipped with eight TF33s. Rolls Royce is now going to replace these one-on-one with F130 engines. This type of jet engine is the military variant of the BR700 turbofan. In total, Rolls Royce will supply and install 608 engines. This is exactly the number needed to re-engine all 76 B-52Hs. The contract also provides for the supply of spare engines and associated equipment.

According to a USAF press release the first two modified B-52s will be available for testing in 2025. The first aircraft with new engines will be operational by the end of 2028. The plan is that by 2035 all bombers will have new engines. The USAF expects the B-52s with the new engines to continue flying at least until 2050. The centenary of the type is then close: the flight of the first prototype took place on April 15, 1952.

For years, the saying has been going around that “when the last B-1 (or B-2) is flown into the desert for storage, the crew is picked up by a B-52.” This once seemed nonsensical, but could become reality. The B-1 and B-2 bombers will be replaced by the new B-21 Raider within a few years. It is now expected that all B-1 and B-2 bombers will be withdrawn from service before 2040.

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