Why B-52 will outlive everything
Born during the height of the "Cold War," the B-52 "Stratofortress" has fascinated children and put the "fear of god" into the enemies of the United States for almost 70 years.
Propelled by no less than eight jet engines, the B-52 has an unparalleled payload capacity, range, and survivability of any long-range bomber in history. The United States has around 740 of these aerial monsters, and each can carry nuclear-tipped or conventional warheads to any target within its 8.780-mile (14,162 km) range.
This range can be extended almost indefinitely thanks to mid-air refueling.
The B-52 is not just powerful on paper. It has been involved in most U.S. military engagements, from the Korean War to Operation Desert Storm in the 1990s and beyond. The B-52, it appears, refused to die.
Most bombers have been upgraded and modernized over the decades since they entered service, with only the original metal airframes remaining from the day they rolled off the Boeing production line.
A perfect example of the legend of the "Ship of Theseus," the B-52 appears to have many more years of service on the cards.
Undergo another round of upgrades under its Commercial Engine Replacement Program (CERP). This is especially true since it was just announced that the U.S. B-52 fleet would get more upgrades as part of the Commercial Engines Replacement Program (CERP). As the name suggests, this program aims to improve and replace all jet engines on planes that are already in use.
Designed by Rolls-Royce, Boeing will receive and integrate the engines once proven. If all goes according to plan, the engines will be replaced ad hoc, as each B-52 is scheduled for planned maintenance over the years.
The F130 engine is a military version of Rolls-Royce's commercial BR725, are used by the Air Force on the C-37 VIP transport and the E-11 BACN. Boeing is making a new housing, or nacelle, for the B-52's engines. This will allow the engines to fit into the current B-52s.
This is especially the case on the B-52, as it features a near-unique set of twin-engine nacelles on each wing.
The new engines are about 30% more efficient than the old ones. Replacing them will make the B-52's already impressive range even better. They will also dramatically reduce maintenance times and costs while also future proofing them for spare parts.
Boeing is planning on beginning the upgrades in 2024, and the overall program will cost somewhere in the region of $2.6 billion. However, the new engines' cost savings will more than pay for this over time.
Not only are they getting new engines, but B-52s are also scheduled to be upgraded to carry and deploy the U.S.'s AGM-183 Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon, or ARRW for short. The integration of America's first proven hypersonic missile, ARRW, further secures the B-52s' future.
The mighty B-52, it seems, will be around for quite some time yet.