The B-52 bomber to get a new lease in life with Rolls Royce engine replacement

It'll give the aircraft more range, endurance and flexibility.
Ameya Paleja
Artist's rendering of the B-52 with F130 enginesRolls Royce

Digital modeling is playing a key role in the Commercial Engine Replacement Program (CERP) aimed at upgrading the U.S. Air Force's B-52 Bomber aircraft, Defense News reported

Introduced in 1955, the B-52 strategic bomber needs no introduction and has been a critical part of the U.S. plans during the period of the Cold War and beyond. Last year, we reported how the B-52 bombers even took down fighter aircraft in Vietnam and how the U.S. Air Force plans to extend the life of this iconic aircraft by powering it with fresh new engines.

F130 engines

The task of fitting new engines on this over half a century old aircraft has been assigned to Boeing, the original makers of the aircraft. While the original design featured engines from Pratt and Whitney, the Air Force conducted a vigorous multi-year competition before awarding Rolls Royce the contract for the new engines.

On its part, Rolls Royce is banking on its F130 series of engines that also power the C-37 and E-11 BACN aircraft and have an impressive record of having achieved over 27 million hours of flight. The engines promise greater range and fuel efficiency while decreasing tanker requirements which will increase the flexibility of the B-52 going forward. 

Digital engineering

Rolls Royce is also using its state-of-the-art digital engineering tools to understand the aircraft better so as to incorporate its engines in the least hassle possible. According to Defense News, the company has created digital maps of the B-52 which has allowed its engineers to map models of the new engines and how they would interact with other components.

While details aren't disclosed to the public, the designers were able to spot conflicting issues early on in the design process and work closely with Boeing to effect minor tweaks in the engines and the aircraft to place system components. By identifying potential conflicts in the design and operations early on, the collaboration has saved precious time in the replacement program. 

Rolls Royce will begin testing engine prototypes as early as this year even though production is expected to last till 2026. More importantly, the tools being used in the design will allow future engine repairs to be completed without removing the engine while the development of maintenance manuals will also benefit from them. 

It is not just the engines that are getting an upgrade. Boeing also said that the associated power generation and pneumatics systems are being upgraded while the cockpit displays and engine controls are also getting facelifts.

We can't wait to hear the new engines of the B-52 roar. 

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