The iconic Cold-war era Boeing B-52H Stratofortress bomber is getting its 1960s-vintage Pratt & Whitney TF33-103 engines replaced by more-efficient commercial replacements. The re-engine program will keep the colossal aircraft operational until 2050 and meet the high-power demands for next-generation weapons, a fire control radar, and other electrical systems.
The B-52 is the most combat capable bomber in the U.S. inventory with 76 units completely operational. Due to its high mission-capable rate, large payload, long range, persistence and ability to employ both nuclear and conventional precision standoff weapons. The B-52s has eight engines in four pods, two under each wing. the Air Force overhauls each TF33 every 6,000 flight hours, as a rule, a process that costs $2 million per engine.
The new replacements are expected to improve the fuel consumption by 20-40%, enough to support a peak electrical load of 400-500 KVA. The old bomber will require substantial modification, including a new power architecture and full authority digital engine controls while maintaining the gross take-off weight of 488,000 lb and its center of gravity.
The leading candidates for the program are Rolls-Royce’s 16,000 lb.-thrust BR725 and GE Aviation’s 18,000-lb.-thrust CF34 -10. At present, the Air Force wants potential engine makers to be ready to supply 20 with a fixed price in order to modify just two BUFFs and their 16 combined power plants. This would leave 4 in reserve in case of failures or other issues. Following an extensive development and testing period with the first two modified aircraft, engine upgrades for the first 10 operational aircraft could start in fiscal 2026, followed by full-rate production for the remaining 64 through fiscal 2028-34. If initiated, this would be the most extensive upgrade in the bomber’s storied history.