On Sept. 24, 2021, The Pentagon announced that Rolls Royce has awarded a contract to supply 608 new F130 turbofans engines for the B-52H Stratofortress bomber fleet.
Rolls Royce gets an estimated $500,870,458 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract to provide new engines for the B-52H Stratofortress bomber fleet, with a potential total of $2,604,329,361 if all options are exercised.
According to the notice, the contract will provide 608 commercial engines plus spare engines, associated support equipment, and commercial engineering data, and is expected to be completed by September 2038.
“This contract provides for 608 commercial engines plus spare engines, associated support equipment, and commercial engineering data, to include sustainment activities, to be used on the B-52H bomber fleet,” according to the Pentagon’s announcement. “The location of performance is Indianapolis, Indiana, and work is expected to be completed by Sept. 23, 2038.”
The contract notice mentioned 608 engines and an unspecified number of spare engines, with Rolls Royce further specifying that the contract will cover 650 engines. This means that the Air Force will get 608 engines, eight for each of the 76 B-52s in service today, and 42 spare engines. The new engines are expected to remain on the B-52H through at least 2050, increase fuel efficiency, increase range, reduce emissions in unburned hydrocarbons, and significantly reduce maintenance costs.
The B-52 Commercial Engine Replacement Program has been in the works since 2018, with GE Aviation, Pratt & Whitney, and Rolls-Royce as competitors for the contract.
The F130 beat out General Electric’s CF34-10 and Pratt and Whitney’s PW800 to secure this deal. Pratt and Whitney was effectively the incumbent in this competition, though the TF33 engine that powers the B-52H now has been out of production since 1985.
The company has continued to provide support for TF33s found on B-52Hs and other Air Force aircraft since then but at an ever-growing cost. As of 2016, the Air Force was spending approximately $2 million per engine to overhaul TF33s every 6,000 flight hours.
The Air Force plans to finalize integration activities and deliver the first lot of B-52H modified aircraft by the end of 2028, following the delivery of the first two fully modified B-52s are projected by the end of 2025.
Regardless, new engines of any kind are a major milestone in the B-52’s already impressively long career and will be critical to ensuring the bombers can continue to serve the Air Force for decades to come.