Possible B-52H engine replacement draws closer

908 EARS refuels Navy F-18A Super Hornets, B-52 Stratofortress
The USAF is edging closer to a possible re-engine of its 76-strong B-52H bomber fleet. (USAF)

The USAF has laid out three potential plans to re-engine its fleet of 76 Boeing B-52H Stratofortresses to allow the 55-year-old bomber fleet to operate beyond 2050.

At a December 12 industry day, the service has outlined its requirement that any replacement engine must be new build, must provide at least 20 per cent improved fuel burn whilst maintaining or improving current take-off performance and service ceiling, will replace the eight existing TF33s one-for-one rather than some earlier options which offered four larger turbofans, and that it must be able to be integrated to the old airframe with minimal structural changes.

The USAF is also interested in increasing the power generating capacity of the aircraft to support new weapons, sensors, and possibly a digital engine control system.

While there is still no program of record to re-engine the B-52, an effort that would result in at least 600 new engines being acquired, but the USAF has requested “initial seed funding” in its 2018 budget to continue its studies into the possibility.

The service says, if an engine manufacturer and integrator is chosen in the next 12 months, it could modify two test aircraft with engines in FY2022. Further, if the test program is successful, 74 engines sets could be acquired in each year from FY2026 to 2034.

Rolls Royce has previously indicated its interest in the program by offering the BR725, a variant of the F130 engine that powers the E-11 BACN (Global Express) and C-37 (G550).