New F130 engines, co-developed by Rolls-Royce and Boeing, will eventually replace the aging TF33 B-52H engines from Pratt & Whitney. The B-52’s flight controls, throttles, and displays will also be upgraded as part of the Commercial Engine Replacement Program (CERP).
The head of procurement for the service, Andrew Hunter, is confident that the program will be ready to start the engineering and production development phase in the fall. The plan is to fly B-52J variants of these bombers (the original type went out of service in 1962) until the mid-2050s.
The new F130 engine would have a larger supply chain and more component availability compared to the current TF33 engine. It aims to upgrade the B-52’s radar to make the bomber more aware of its surroundings and more precise while engaging targets.
Development and Testing of a Bomber
At NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, Rolls-Royce has been putting its new F130 engines through their paces. According to Hunter, the program’s dangers have been lessened because a digital twin of the engine has been developed to check for issues before it is physically manufactured.
Once the CERP completes Milestone B, it will become a formal acquisition program. However, in the event of a war against China, the B-52 would not fly in dangerous and contested airspace as the stealthy B-21 Raider would, according to Lt. Gen. Richard Moore.
The Air Force has not yet decided if it will look for a future “clean sheet” bomber to replace the B-52 in the coming decades, as it is currently focused on deciding the number of B-21s to acquire and the combat system.
United States: Preparing for Future Threats
As a result of the increasing Chinese threat, the Air Force has decided to bring forward the acquisition of its next-generation aerial refueling system by nearly 15 years. Moore said that if a new danger is found to be too great for the B-21 to handle, they will look to upgrade or replace their bomber fleet.
Although we have not yet reached that point, the service is certain that the B-21 can handle any threats that may arise in the future. Moore stated that strengthening its capabilities was necessary for light of a new danger. Instead of upgrading its aircraft, the Air Force is more likely to improve their arsenal.
Given how quickly China is getting better at making weapons, Moore thinks it will likely try to counter the danger from that angle rather than start from scratch. However, Moore doesn’t rule out a new plan if the old one doesn’t work.
Modernization of the B-52: guaranteeing operability
The B-52 Stratofortress is a long-range, heavy bomber aircraft operated by the United States Air Force. Here are some specifications of the B-52:
- Crew: 5 (pilot, co-pilot, radar navigator, navigator, electronic warfare officer)
- Length: 159 ft 4 in (48.5 m)
- Wingspan: 185 ft 0 in (56.4 m)
- Height: 40 ft 8 in (12.4 m)
- Empty weight: 185,000 lb (83,000 kg)
- Maximum takeoff weight: 488,000 lb (221,000 kg)
- Powerplant: 8 × Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-3/103 turbofan engines, 17,000 lbf (76 kN) each
- Maximum speed: Mach 0.9 (700 mph, 1,100 km/h)
- Range: 8,800 mi (14,080 km)
- Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,000 m)
- Armament: Up to 70,000 lb (32,000 kg) of ordnance, including nuclear bombs, cruise missiles, and conventional bombs.
The B-52 has been in service with the US Air Force since the 1950s and has undergone several upgrades over the years to remain an effective and relevant strategic bomber.
The modernization of the B-52 bombers will ensure that they remain a key part of the US military strategy, adapting to new threats and technologies.
Updating engines and systems will keep these aircraft in service until the 2050s, ensuring an effective response capacity in different war scenarios.