Rolls-Royce said it has begun testing its replacement engines for the Air Force’s B-52 fleet.
The Air Force picked Rolls-Royce’s F130 engines and will take delivery of more than 600 engines once they are ready for flight. The company said it will be the first time its F130 engines have been tested side-by-side in the dual pod configuration used for the B-52’s eight total engines.
Rolls-Royce is testing the engines at a NASA facility in Mississippi and it will be measuring how they perform in crosswind conditions while tracking operations for the electronic engine control system.
F-130s are derived from Rolls-Royce’s BR family of engines and, according to Program Director Scott Ames, they’re durable enough to stay on-wing for the duration of the B-52 aircraft’s lifespan. He said this will reduce maintenance costs and allow the B-52 fleet to keep going for decades. The engines will be manufactured at the company’s facility in Indianapolis.
The Air Force in 2021 awarded the $2.6 billion contract for the replacement engines to Rolls-Royce after a competitive selection process. The new engines are replacing the TF33-PW-103, which have powered the B-52 since the 1960s but are projected to no longer be supportable beyond 2030.
The first two fully modified B-52s were projected for delivery by the end of 2025, so it seems that Rolls-Royce is on track to meet that goal. The Air Force said in 2021 that it expects the first lot of operational B-52s with the new engines to arrive by the end of 2028, and that the entire fleet will be modified by 2035.
The B-52 is a long-range bomber built for strategic attacks, close-air support, air interdiction, offensive counter-air and maritime operations. It’s capable of flying at high subsonic speeds at altitudes up to 50,000 feet.