Lt. Gen. Duke Z. Richardson, top US Air Force (USAF) uniformed acquisition official, said that the award of the B-52 Commercial Engine Replacement Program (CERP) is “imminent.”
Senior service acquisition officials reported on Sep. 21, 2021 that the contract to re-engine the B-52 bomber should be awarded by the end of this month.
As reported by Air Force Magazine, Lt. Gen. Duke Z. Richardson, top US Air Force (USAF) uniformed acquisition official, told reporters at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber conference that the award of the B-52 Commercial Engine Replacement Program (CERP) is “imminent.” The evaluation of the proposals is being done and the source selection should be completed “within the month,” explained Darlene Costello, acting USAF acquisition executive. “It could be faster, but I will not accept” a source selection until the program executive officer’s team has “completed their work,” she pointed out.
The USAF’s B-52Hs’ engines are the Pratt & Whitney TF33-PW-103s which have powered the aircraft since the early 1960s. The TF33 is based on the commercial JT3D that powered the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8. Each Stratofortress has eight engines.
The USAF is looking for a replacement engine that has a similar size, thrust and weight compared to the legacy P&W powerplants. Each of those engines generate 17,000lb-thrust (75.7kN). The service also wants a modern turbofan with a higher bypass ratio and digital engine controls. It wants that engine to have reduced fuel consumption, noise, emissions and operating costs.
Offerers have said their engines are so reliable that they will not need to come off the wing of the B-52 for an overhaul during the bomber’s remaining lifetime.
Using the “mid-tier acquisition” approach approved by Congress for prototyping efforts on the CERP will likely save about three years on the program’s timeline, Richardson explained. He added that it might be possible to accelerate it a bit more but the acquisition community wants to ensure “that we do it properly, … We want to make sure we do ‘speed with discipline.’” The target for getting the re-engining underway is 2030, he said, because after that the TF30 is “not going to be very supportable.”
GE Aviation, Raytheon Technologies’ Pratt & Whitney unit, and Rolls-Royce are competing.
CF34-10s, which powers commercial aircraft like Bombardier and Embraer regional jets, and Passport turbofans, which power Bombardier’s Global 7500 business jet are the two engines that GE Aviation plans to offer. The PW800 engine, which powers Gulfstream G500 and G600 business jets, is the engine that plans to offer Pratt & Whitney. Finally, R-R plans to offer the F130 engine (shown in the main image of this post), a military derivative of the company’s BR700, which is also the engine of Gulfstream business jets and other aircraft.
A total of 608 engines plus additional spare engines and support equipment are required. They are to be delivered over 17 years. For prototyping purposes, USAF will start with 20 engines—16 for two aircraft plus four spares.
Pratt & Whitney initially proposed an upgrade of the TF33, but the Air Force rejected that idea.
The CERP will likely be converted to a major acquisition program after the initial phase is complete, Costello said.
Boeing will integrate the selected engine onto the B-52, converting the jet’s old analog engine controls to digital ones. A Boeing program official said that while the company provided “information” to the USAF about which engines were relatively easier or harder to integrate—and what other changes might be required—Boeing did not make a recommendation of any particular engine. Boeing will decide how the engines should be placed on the wings and whether to mount them in twin-engine nacelles, as the TF33s are mounted now. The official said the disused infrared blisters on the aircraft’s nose will be removed to improve airflow to the new engines, restoring the aircraft’s original profile.
The re-engining is the centerpiece of an overall B-52 technology refresh that will also include new radars, connectivity enhancements, and capability for new weapons, such as hypersonic missiles. Boeing, the original prime on the B-52, will handle integration of the new engines.
The B-52 is slated to remain in service through 2050.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force