USAF to start B-52 re-engine competition in the first quarter of 2019

USAF to start B-52 re-engine competition in the first quarter of 2019

By Dario Leone
Mar 17 2018
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The USAF  is looking to acquire at least 608 new, commercially available turbofan engines to replace the eight Pratt & Whitney TF33s each B-52 carries

The U.S. Air Force (USAF) is gearing up to start the process of getting new engines for the B-52 bomber in the first quarter of 2019.

Flight Global says a winner will be selected four to six months after final proposals are submitted.

The department is looking to acquire at least 608 new, commercially available turbofan engines to replace the eight Pratt & Whitney TF33s each bomber carries.

The USAF decided last June that the TF33, a jet engine first produced 60 years ago, is not sustainable beyond 2030, due to age, parts obsolescence and a shrinking supplier base. Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce and GE Aviation are possible bidders for the engine replacement programme.

As explained by Tom Hartmann, Rolls Royce (R-R) North America’s senior vice-president of customer business, the USAF plan to reconfigure the B-52 with four engines would require expensive modifications to the wings. Noteworthy R-R previously considered a higher thrust variant of the RB211 turbofan engine as a four-engine option on the B-52, but the service does not appear to be moving in that direction.

B-52H print
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“Our BR700 is right in the sweet spot,” Hartmann said last September. “It’s almost a perfect one-for-one fit from a thrust and a size standpoint.”

Noteworthy while Pratt & Whitney has offered an upgraded version of its original TF33 engine to sustain the B-52 through 2050, R-R cites support from both Boeing and USAF for a replacement rather than refurbishment, Hartmann says. The BR725 engines in fact would require a reduced number of air refueling tankers, would avoid obsolescence risks older engines could pose and could provide a 34% improvement in fuel consumption over existing engines.

R-R would create a new engine assembly and test line in Indianapolis if it wins the contract.

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

The effort to put new engines on the B-52H bomber, and thus extend its lifespan, comes as a result of the USAF’s plan to rely on the bomber for decades to come. The USAF plans to trim its bomber fleet by 2040 down to the B-52H and the forthcoming Northrop Grumman B-21 stealth bomber. The Northrop Grumman B-2 and the Rockwell B-1 are scheduled for retirement.

Photo credit: Senior Airman Luke Hill / U.S. Air Force and Landmark9254 (Own work), via Wikipedia

Artwork courtesy of

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Dario Leone

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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