The United States Air Force (USAF) has selected Rolls-Royce North America to provide the powerplant for the B-52 Stratofortress nuclear heavy bomber under the Commercial Engine Replacement Program (CERP). The company will provide its F-130 turbofan engine to power the giant aircraft for the next 30 years.
The B-52 Stratofortress is a long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber, capable of carrying up to 70,000 pounds (32,000 kg) of nuclear or conventional weapons and has a typical combat range of more than 8,800 miles (14,080 km) without aerial refueling. Manufactured by Boeing, the B-52s have been in service with the USAF since the 1950s, with 76 of them are still in service and another 12 held in reserve storage.
Over the years, the aircraft has been modified and upgraded with new electronics, weapon dispensers, and other systems since the B-52s entered service in 1955.
The Air Force announced the B-52H CERP in early 2018, and in April 2020, it launched a request for proposals for 608 commercial engines to upgrade its B-52 fleet of 76 aircraft. The program has seen competitors like GE Aviation with its CF34 and Passport turbofan engines, Pratt & Whitney offer its PW800, and Rolls Royce with the modern F130.
With USAF now selected Rolls Royce’s F130 engine, it will replace the current engines with 608 engines (eight per plane) and 42 spares, at the cost of US$2.6 billion. So far, the new F130 and its commercial family of engines have accumulated more than 27 million engine flight hours.
According to Rolls Royce, the F-130 engines are the perfect fit for B-52s with proven reliability, superb life cycle cost, and low integration risk. A variant of the Rolls-Royce engine selected to power the iconic B-52 is already in service with the USAF worldwide, powering both the C-37 and E-11 BACN (Battlefield Airborne Communications Node) aircraft.
“We are proud to join a truly iconic U.S. Air Force program and provide world-class, American-made engines that will power its missions for the next 30 years. The F130 is a proven, efficient, modern engine that is the perfect fit for the B-52,” said Tom Bell, Chairman & CEO, Rolls-Royce North America, and President – Defense.
Rolls-Royce plans to build and test the F130 engines at its Indianapolis, Indiana, facility. The F130 offers outstanding reliability with high mission readiness and low maintenance demands. Once installed, the F130 can stay on the wing for the entire planned B-52 lifetime. In addition, the F130 engine will provide vastly greater fuel efficiency, increased range, and reduced tanker aircraft requirements. As importantly, the engine is ready for integration using Rolls-Royce’s state-of-the-art Digital Engineering tools.