Military Aviation

B-52 Stratofortress Commercial Engine Replacement Program completed wind tunnel testing

The B-52 Stratofortress Commercial Engine Replacement Program wind tunnel testing was completed using similar models used by engineers in the 1950s to collect data for future flight tests.

The B-52 Commercial Engine Replacement Program (CERP) completed wind tunnel testing, Boeing unveiled in a video posted on Twitter on Sep. 20, 2022 during Air, Space, Cyber 22 conference.

As Mike Seltman (Boeing’s aerodynamics engineer) and Andrew Mosedale (Boeing’s test engineer) explain in the clip, the wind tunnel testing was completed using similar models used by engineers in the 1950s to collect data for future flight tests. This ensures the new engines will work as expected.

As already explained, the radar and engine program represent “the largest modification in the history” of the B-52. The new package includes radar, engines, communications, pylons, cockpit displays, and the deletion of one crew member station, meaning “it makes sense” to have a new designation. The B-52H will be redesignated the B-52J or possibly B-52K, but the US Air Force (USAF) hasn’t yet decided what will constitute the new B-52 variant.

Since some of the new APG-79B4 radars will be installed on the bombers before the new Rolls-Royce F130 engines, the question is whether there will be two designations. For the version with the new radar the B-52 pilot operating manual and maintenance manuals will be re-written; and will be re-written again when the engines are changed.

Because of the deletion of one crew member station, the B-52 Stratofortress Formal Training Unit (FTU), operated by the 93rd and 11th Bomb Squadrons at Barksdale Air Force Base (AFB), La., is scheduled to graduate its first class of air crew this fall using the new curriculum designed to fly the B-52 with four people instead of five.

Currently, the bomber has a navigator seat, a radar seat for the weapon systems officer, and an electronic warfare officer seat, but given the massive modification the Big Ugly Fat F****r (BUFF) is set to receive, it will take less people to operate.

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Though the jet is not due for modification yet, the FTU is working to build a crew force now so that new students graduating will be qualified to sit in all three seats of the jet until it is structurally modified for a four-person crew.

The FTU started training early so that by the time the structural modifications are made, the newest students will have the experience to be the next generation of instructors.

For more than 60 years, the iconic B-52 Stratofortress has been the backbone of the strategic bomber force for the US. The current B-52H is a long-range, heavy bomber that can perform a variety of missions. The bomber is capable of flying at high subsonic speeds at altitudes of up to 50,000 feet (15,166.6 meters). It can carry nuclear or precision guided conventional ordnance with worldwide precision navigation capability.

Photo credit: Boeing

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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