Rolls-Royce has provided an unsolicited bid to re-engine the US Air Force’s remaining fleet of B-52H bombers.
The company has offered the BR725 which powers Bombardier Global Express and Gulfstream G550 business jets. The engine is designated F130 for the military versions of these aircraft, the E-11 and C-37 respectively.
If approved, the new engines would replace the B-52’s P&W TF33 turbofans on a one-for-one basis, providing increased thrust, reduced fuel consumption, and much lower maintenance requirements, and allow the type to serve for at least 30 more years.
The proposal was outlined during a September 14 media briefing by Rolls-Royce’s senior vice president of customer business, Tom Hartmann. “The F130 family of engines that we’re proposing for the propulsion modernisation is already a mostly U.S.-made product, and we’re going to take the final step in bringing the assembly and test of that to the US, should this program go forward.”
Previous re-engine efforts for venerable bomber have fallen by the wayside, either because they were too expensive, or it was thought uneconomical because the B-52 would soon be replaced. One of those efforts was an early 1990s proposal to replace the eight TF33s with four Rolls-Royce RB211 turbofans, but it was determined that, with the B-52’s wide engine pylon spacing this would provide too much asymmetric thrust should one of the engines fail on takeoff, and the aircraft’s relatively small tail and rudder would not have sufficient authority to compensate.
While the USAF does not currently have an active program to re-engine the B-52, it continues to study the idea. Following the separation of an engine from a B-52 over North Dakota earlier this year, the concept received a boost, and could ultimately result in an order for up to 650 engines.
“We believe the Air Force wants to keep the B-52 affordable and relevant for a long time to come, probably another 30 years or so, through 2050,” Hartmann said.
“They’re already investing in the aircraft. Most of the major systems except for the engines have had modernisation. Weapons, radars, comms are in the process of being upgraded.”