Taken by famous aviation photographer Zdenek Cerny (be sure to visit his page on Airplane Pictures to check out all his awesome shots) on Sep. 18, 2017 at Ostrava, Czech Republic, during NATO Days 2017 airshow, the incredible photo in this post (which has been shared on several Facebook groups) features the engine of a U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress belonging to 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base (AFB), Louisiana, starting to disintegrate.
The last B-52 rolled off the production line in 1962. If the U.S. Air Force (USAF) plans hold up, the B-52 will be approaching nearly a century of service by 2050. To keep the airplane flying, as we have previously reported, the service plans to equip each B-52 with new engines.
The USAF wants to buy a replacement for each of the eight TF-33s on all of its 76 B-52s, or around 608 engines in all (plus some attrition spares in case of accidental damage). Similar to the existing engines, they’ll be housed in twin-engine pods.
Boeing, the original manufacturer and a chief supporter of the B-52, will be the integrator on the re-engining effort, but the Air Force will choose the engine and supplier, Boeing will advise the Air Force on the impact each potential engine would have on the B-52’s flight profile and weapons carriage.
A Pratt & Whitney spokesman said that if the Air Force opts not to refurbish the TF-33, “the best solution” would be a modified PW815, the engine Pratt supplies for Gulfstream’s G600 business jet.
“We know this aircraft’s engine and power requirements like no one else,” a Pratt spokesman told Air Force Magazine. “We are confident that the options we offer will address propulsion, fuel burn, and power generation (including APU) requirements for the B-52 to 2030 and beyond.”
GE Aviation has two offerings that could play in the B-52 derby: The CF34-10 and the new “Passport” engine. Karl Sheldon, a manager in GE’s aviation manufacturing division, said the final requirements will determine the best choice between the two.
“The CF34 offers proven reliability,” he said, having racked up 26 million flight hours, while the new Passport offers unprecedented “fuel burn, range, or time on station.” The company will settle on an offering as soon as it’s clear which one will best match USAF’s stated requirements.
Rolls-Royce jumped into the re-engining contest before it was even announced, touting its BR725 power plant—military designation F130—as the ideal candidate as early as September 2017. Company officials said their offering would cut carbon emissions by 95 percent while handily meeting USAF’s notional-range and fuel-efficiency requirements.
The F130 powers the RQ-4 Global Hawk, the E-11 BACN, and the new Compass Call aircraft, which is a special-mission version of the Gulfstream 650, so it’s already in the Air Force inventory.
Officially, the project is called the B-52 Commercial Engine Replacement Program (CERP), and the USAF has already hosted a number of industry days to discuss it at Barksdale AFB. The stated goal: Obtain a “commercial, off-the-shelf, in-production engine,” according to a FedBizOpps (Federal Business Opportunities) announcement regarding the industry day held in Novemeber 2018.
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