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Rolls-Royce to bid for US Air Force's B-52 re-engining effort

Rolls-Royce will offer its F130 propulsion system for the US Air Force’s (USAF’s) re-engining of the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress heavy bomber.

John Kusnierek, Rolls-Royce vice-president of military strategic systems, told Jane’s on 25 February that the B-52’s age of 66 years means reducing integration risks from installing a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) engine will be a major focus. These risks, he said, include characteristics such as an inoperable engine and controllability. According to Kusnierek, an inoperable engine produces unbalanced forces that the flight controls must overcome. He also said the B-52’s twin engine pod is fairly unique and that engine diameter is a factor in integration.

Rolls-Royce will offer its F130 engine for the US Air Force’s B-52 re-engining (Rolls-Royce)

Rolls-Royce will offer its F130 engine for the US Air Force’s B-52 re-engining (Rolls-Royce)

The B-52 re-engining is shaping up to be a big programme: the effort would provide 650 new engines for the eight-engine aircraft, and the USAF’s five-year research and development (R&D) budget is roughly USD1 billion, with a rapid transition to production in about 2024.

USAF spokesperson Ann Stefanek said on 25 February that a request for proposals for this effort is expected later this year. The B-52 is currently powered by the Pratt & Whitney TF33 turbofan.

Rolls-Royce would build the F130 in Indianapolis, Indiana: its largest engineering, design, and manufacturing site in the United States. A USD600 million investment in modernisation and technology programmes is nearing completion at the site, including state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing, according to a company statement.

Pratt & Whitney and General Electric (GE) are also expected to bid for the programme. At the time of writing neither company had responded to a request for comment.

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