C4iSR: Air

AFA 2018: B-52 re-engining could feature rapid prototyping

16 September 2018

The B-52 re-engining effort could feature rapid prototyping to help stakeholders better understand integration issues, according to an executive from potential bidder General Electric. Source: IHS Markit/Patrick Allen

Key Points

  • An industry executive believes rapid prototyping could play a part in the US Air Force’s B-52 re-engining effort
  • Despite the engines being commercial, he believes there are many issues involved in integrating modern engines on legacy aircraft

An executive from potential B-52 re-engining bidder General Electric (GE) believes rapid prototyping could play a part in the programme to help stakeholders better understand integration issues involving modern engines and legacy airframes.

Karl Sheldon, vice-president and general manager of GE Aviation’s large military engines business, told Jane’s in a recent interview ahead of the annual Air Force Association (AFA) conference that, despite competitor engine offerings being commercial off-the-shelf, there is a lot of work that both the US Air Force (USAF) and contractors will need to learn, leading him to believe the service is considering rapid prototyping. These issues, he said, include how to integrate on a B-52 Stratofortress pylon, wing loading, and working with the weapons release envelope.

Other integration issues, Sheldon said, include the system’s flight worthiness and weapons capability and how the aircraft reacts to a new engine. He said while the engine requires little development, other parts of the integration, such as radiation hardening, will require some development.

The integration issues do not end there. Sheldon said as the B-52 does not have an auxiliary power unit, the programme will have to determine methods to start the engine and whether it will be electric or pneumatic. The contractor, he said, will have to ascertain how to integrate the starting capability on the airframe and how to run the electrical lines.

Sheldon said the winning contractor must also choose whether it want generators coming off each of the B-52s’ eight engines or only select engines. A final issue Sheldon raised was whether the rapid prototyping would take places as part of a flight test or be performed virtually.

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