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Pratt & Whitney’s engines were all the rage in the 20th century. Their exceptional performance made them the perfect fit for everything – from jetliners to bombers and fighters.
When the B-52H came into service, its most significant change was the switch to the Pratt & Whitney TF-33-P-3 turbofan engines, which offered better performance and fuel efficiency than its older J57 turbojets. But after three decades of the same engine, the USAF decided to look for another significant upgrade to its engines.
Boeing and Rolls Royce offered the new and improved RB211 engines, which could increase thrust from 136,000 lbs to 172,000 lbs while improving its range and reducing fuel consumption. However, the USAF declined after realizing the new engines would be way too expensive for their premiere bomber fleet. And so they kept using the same engine until 2020.
The USAF was (again) looking for a replacement in April 2020, requiring 608 commercial engines. Its TF-33 engines were already too old and expensive to maintain, needing a service overhaul every 6,000 flight hours and costing $2 million per engine. This meant the B-52 cost $70,000 per hour to fly as of 2019.
After making the Commercial Engine Re-Engining Program or CERP public, the USAF decided to go with Rolls-Royce’s F-130 engines. The $2.6 billion contract includes 650 engine models, with 608 immediately replacing the B-52’s engines while the remaining 42 would be kept as spares.
On March 1, 2023, Rolls-Royce announced they would test the F-130 engines at the Nasa Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
The main focus so far will fall on the engine’s Digital Control System and crosswind aerodynamic flow. F-130s are bigger than the old powerplants, meaning the larger nacelles are closer to the wing, which could affect its controllability.
If these engines are cleared for the B-52s, they are expected to prolong the bomber’s service life for another thirty years.