Funding for B-52 re-engine program will unlikely be approved before 2020

The B-52 re-engine program will have to fit in the budget at the same time as the Air Force’s new B-21 bomber and new ICBM, as well as a new U.S. Navy missile submarine

At the Association of Old Crows conference in Washington Gen. Robin Rand, head of U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC), told reporters that funding for the B-52 re-engine program will unlikely be approved before 2020.

As reported by Breaking Defense, the actual delivery and installation of new engines on the service’s 76 B-52H strategic bombers will, of course, take years after that. The project will have to fit in the budget at the same time as the Air Force’s new B-21 bomber and new Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), as well as a new  U.S. Navy missile submarine.

“I think we’ve made a compelling case that the B-52’s going to be around, and it warrants being re-engined,” Rand was quoted as saying.

As previously reported, in September it was disclosed that if the U.S. Air Force (USAF) eventually decides to re-engine its B-52 bomber fleet, ​Rolls Royce (R-R) will pitch its BR725 turbofan to the service.

“We’re acting like it’s imminent, those are the grindstones we’re working,” said Tom Hartmann, R-R North America’s senior vice-president of customer business. “I think there’s been a sense of urgency for a couple years now. The reason we’re doing this today is because we’re seeing an increased momentum and want to offer our best shot at the competition.”

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Instead as clarified by Rand the B-52 re-engine program won’t be funded before 2020. In the ponderous budget process, Congress is currently struggling to pass proper spending bills for fiscal year 2018 — which began two months ago — while the administration is already finalizing the request for 2019, which will be submitted early next year. Re-engining is on the table for the budget after that, Rand made clear: “That decision hasn’t been made. It won’t be earlier than ’20 if it happens.”

Veteran aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia is instead skeptical the re-engining would ever happen. “It’s such a great idea — a great idea for the past 30+ years now — and probably doomed, like many great ideas,” he told Breaking Defense.

“The problem is that re-engining would save money from the O&M account (fuel and parts) and would cost money from the procurement account,” he explained. “Yes, the O&M savings would quickly outweigh the procurement cost, but the two budgets don’t speak. Savings from O&M aren’t used to replace the spent procurement cash stream. It’s a goofy way to do accounting, but I’m afraid DoD is stuck with it.”

“That’s why planes don’t get re-engined,” Aboulafia concluded. “The only exceptions were the KC-135 (around 2,000 engines…that moves the needle fast!) and the C-5A, whose TF39 motors were troubled orphans that suffered from low readiness and diminishing spares supplies.”Funding for B-52 re-engine program will unlikely be approved before 2020

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force and Landmark9254 (Own work), via Wikipedia

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