Military Aviation

Rolls-Royce to offer F130 turbofan for B-52 re-engine competition. If it wins, it will build them in Indianapolis.

For its fleet of 76 B-52s, the Air Force needs over 600 engines, plus some spares. Rolls-Royce pegged the requirement at 650 engines.

Rolls-Royce will offer the F130, a variant of the commercial BR700, engine for the US Air Force (USAF) B-52 re-engine program and has chosen its facility in Indianapolis to build the engine if selected.

The company says winning the competition would create 150 additional jobs.

The engine is currently being used on the E-11 BACN and C-37.

Rolls said it has invested $600 million over the last few years in its Indianapolis plant, and Vice President for Military Strategic Systems John Kusnierek said the upgrades were designed for “this-sized engine.” According to Air Force Magazine, the facility has new digital design capabilities, as well as improved “efficiency and capacity,” which Kusnierek said will be important for the competition.

USAF acquisition chief Will Roper said last September he anticipates a “digital flyoff” among competing engines for the B-52 work.

Indianapolis is the site of Rolls’ “Liberty Works” advanced development shop, and the company said it has invested $1 billion in Research and development in the last six years.

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Kusnierek said the F130 will undergo final assembly, test, and integration in Indianapolis, but declined to discuss the specific amount of US part content, saying only there is “variety” in the F130 supply chain. The F130 will be an “American” engine, he asserted. As we have already explained General Electric and Pratt & Whitney also are expected to offer engines for the B-52 program. The fiscal year 2020 defense budget request is expected to offer details on the timeline of the B-52 re-engining program.

The B-52 work “fits perfectly with our plans” for Indianapolis, Kusnierek asserted, and the F130, given its 17,000 pounds of thrust and physical size, is a “perfect fit” for the venerable bomber. The company also produces engines for the C-130J transport, CV-22 Osprey, and Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft at the Indianapolis facility. Rolls has previously said it would likely offer the F130 for the B-52 contest.

The Air Force is seeking a commercial, off-the-shelf replacement for the Pratt & Whitney TF33 engine, which was original equipment on the eight-engined B-52H, the last of which was built in 1962. The service seeks a one-for-one replacement of the TF33, with new powerplants clustered in four two-engine nacelles per jet. For its fleet of 76 B-52s, the Air Force needs over 600 engines, plus some spares.

Rolls pegged the requirement at 650 engines. Rolls noted that it has amassed 22 million flight hours on the BR700 series, and “over 200,000 combat hours” with the F130 in USAF service. Rolls said it employs 6,000 people in the US, and indirectly supports 52,000 jobs in 27 states.

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Photo Credit: Rolls-Royce

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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