Rolls-Royce Will Build the U.S. Air Force's New B-52 Bomber Engines

In a deal that could be worth $2.6 billion.
Chris Young

The U.S. Air Force has selected Rolls-Royce to provide engines for its B-52 Stratofortress bombers, a press statement from the British engineering firm reveals. The company will produce F-130 engines at its Indianapolis, Indiana facility as a replacement engine for the bombers.

The decision was made after a three-way competition, called the Commercial Engine Replacement Program (CERP), between GE Aviation, Pratt & Whitney, and Rolls-Royce. It means that Rolls-Royce will provide its engines for the B-52 for the next 30 years. The U.S. Air Force's B-52 aircraft has been powered by Pratt engines since the 1960s, though these will be retired by 2030 — last year, USAF engineers 3D printed an anti-icing gasket for the B-52s Pratt & Whitney TF33-P103 turbofan engine in a sign of the aircraft's aging maintenance supply chain.

The CERP project is only one part of the USAF's efforts to update the B-52. According to AirForceMag, the iconic aircraft will also receive a new radar, new connectivity upgrades, and a digital cockpit. The Air Force hopes that these updates, including the F-130 engines, will let it continue to use the B-52 bombers into the 2050s. The CERP is supposed to provide up to 40 percent more range and fuel economy for the B-52. Watch a video showcasing Rolls-Royce's F-130 engines below.

Rolls-Royce engines provide 'vastly greater fuel efficiency'

The F-130 is the military designation given to Rolls-Royce's commercial BR725 engine, which is used in a number of commercial business jets and airliners including the Boeing 717. According to Rolls-Royce, its B-52 F-130 engine produces 17,000 pounds of thrust and the company said in 2019 the new USAF contract would see it add more than 150 new jobs at its advanced manufacturing facility in Indianapolis. 

The new contract between the U.S. Air Force and Rolls-Royce outlines an initial $500 million six-year deal, though that could rise to $2.6 billion if it is extended into the long-term, according to a report by Reuters. Boeing, which manufactures the B-25, will test the first of Rolls-Royce's F-130 engines on the aircraft by 2025. 

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Tom Bell, chairman, and CEO of Rolls-Royce North America said "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." In its statement, Rolls-Royce said its F-130 engine will provide the U.S. Air Force with "vastly greater fuel efficiency." The F-130 engine is already in service with the USAF's C-37 and E-11 BACN aircraft and it has a combined total flight time of 27 million hours, according to the British firm.

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