B-52 BomberRobert Sullivan/Flickr
Seems like it's time for a revamp of the U.S. Air Force's B-52 heavy strategic bombers fleet. The Air Force is looking for 608 new engines for its B-52s, to ensure that they will be able to keep flying at least until 2050.
The bombers were first introduced in the 1960s, and it's looking likely they may keep going even in the 2060s.
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Range over power
The Air Force currently has a fleet of 57B-52H bomber fleet, and the Air Force Reserve has 18 of the -H models as well. Originally delivered between May 1961 and October 1962, the fleet was conceived as a nuclear bomber. As the service describes it, it was meant to carry out "strategic (nuclear) attack, close-air support, air interdiction, offensive counter-air, and maritime operations."
It's a versatile bomber, which makes it all the more valuable to the Air Force. It can carry up to 7,000 poundsof laser-guided bombs, GPS-guided bombs, the JASSM air-launched missile, and the Quickstrike naval mines.
It's quite clear to see why the Air Force is keen to keep it running for as long as possible.
Currently, every B-52 is kitted out with eightPratt & Whitney TF33-PW-103 engines, the same ones as the 1960s. These engines offer an un-refueled range of 8,800 miles.
Now, the Air Force has sent out a draft Request for Proposals of new engines for its B-52s. Pratt & Whitney has shown interest again, as have Rolls-Royce, and GE. The Air Force is looking for engines that will be quieter and at a lower cost to operate.
Project to get new engines for #USAF#B52 moving ahead, #PWCanada's #PW800 in the running: "#B52H has an unrefuelled range of 7,650nm (14,200km)...thought that the aircraft’s range could be increased by 20% to 40%"https://t.co/wD2aQ2V3lg#AvGeek#IndoPacific#NATO#armstrade— Mark Collins (@Mark3Ds) April 29, 2020
Its biggest requirement, however, is fuel efficiency. As per FlightGlobal, it seems that the Air Force isn't looking for more powerful engines as the TF-33 can already provide 17,000 pounds of thrust, which is the same thrust target the Air Force wants. Instead, it's looking for "higher bypass ratio and digital engine controls," meaning greater fuel efficiency.
The 8,800-mile range could be increased by another 20 to 40 percent, offering an un-refueling range of 12,320 miles. The B-52 would then be able to fly to any point on Earth.
The Air Force is looking for 608 engines to be delivered over a 17 year period so that 76 bombers could keep operating.