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Rolls-Royce engines chosen for iconic US Air Force bomber

07:44, 27 September 2021

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A B-52 bomber in flight
Rolls-Royce engines to power B-52 bomber – Photo: Shutterstock

Rolls-Royce North America has secured a $2.6bn (£1.9bn. €2.2bn) contract to provide engines for the US Air Force’s B-52 Stratofortress bombers over the next 30 years.

The award includes 608 engines, support equipment and engineering data to be used on the B-52H bomber fleet, according to a statement from the US Air Force (USAF).

The Rolls-Royce F130 powerplant will replace the TF33-PW-103 engine that has been used in the B-52 since the 1960s but is projected to be “no longer supportable” after 2030.

The news went down well in the markets with the share price of Rolls-Royce Holdings up more than 7% to 142p in mid-morning London trade.

Most important upgrade

Rolls-Royce was chosen by the US Air Force under the Commercial Engine Replacement Program (CERP), with the first two fully modified B-52s expected to be delivered by the end of 2025.

Major General Jason Armagost, director of strategic plans, programmes and requirements, said the CERP was the “most important and comprehensive upgrade” to the B-52 for half a century.

“The B-52 is the workhorse of the nation’s bomber force and this modification will allow the B-52 to continue its critical conventional and standoff mission into 2050s,” he said.

Proud to join

According to a statement from Rolls-Royce, the F130 engine offers outstanding reliability with high mission readiness and low maintenance demands.

Tom Bell, chairman and CEO of Rolls-Royce North America, said the company was proud to “provide world-class, American-made engines” for the programme, adding: “The F130 is a proven, efficient, modern engine that is the perfect fit for the B-52.”

A variant of the engine is already in service with the USAF around the world, powering both the C-37 and E-11 BACN aircraft.

Outstanding reliability

According to Rolls-Royce, the F130 can stay on the wing for the entire planned B-52 lifetime and is “ready for integration” using the company’s digital engineering tools.

“In addition, the F130 engine will provide vastly greater fuel efficiency, increased range, and reduced tanker aircraft requirements,” it stated.

Rolls-Royce will build and test the F130 engines at its Indianapolis, Indiana, facility following the recent completion of a $600m investment to revitalise the advanced manufacturing campus.

Major win

Craig McVay, senior vice president of strategic campaigns at Rolls-Royce Defence, branded it a “major win” for the company. “We’ve been planning and preparing for this outcome and are ready to hit the ground running to prove that we are the best choice for the Air Force and the B-52,” he said.

The company’s statement also pointed out it had delivered thousands of engines to the USAF for more than 70 years.

It currently powers C-130H, C-130J, CV-22 Osprey and Global Hawk in the USAF fleet – all engines designed and manufactured in Indianapolis.

Subsonic bomber

The B-52 original equipment manufacturer Boeing is responsible for integrating the engines onto the aircraft.

The bomber is a long-range, heavy bomber that can perform strategic attack, 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.

Read more: Rolls-Royce shares jump as the company swings to profits

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