US Air Force glides toward B-52 engine replacement plan
After years of deliberation over whether to buy new engines for the decades-old B-52 bombers, Air Force officials say they are closer than ever to making a decision.
For the past two years, Air Force Global Strike Command has worked with engine manufacturers and financial institutions to put together a business case assessment for replacing the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress’s eight Pratt & Whitney TF33 engines. That assessment shows that an initial investment in new propulsion systems can save maintenance and fuel costs in the long run, but the Air Force’s acquisition wing is still working on the best way to finance the effort, said James Noetzel, deputy chief of the B-52 weapon system team.
“I think we’re farther along than we’ve ever been in any other re-engine effort. I believe it shows a positive business case,” Noetzel said in a January interview. “The devil is in the details in getting all of these tribes lined up and agreeing to do it,” he added, referring to the Air Force, engine makers and financial institutions...
The service’s latest unfunded requirements list for fiscal year 2016 reveals the re-engining effort has become a bigger priority, with $10 million added for a B-52 risk-reduction study.
“I think this year will be the point of some decisions on how or if the program would go forward,” said Scot Oathout, Boeing’s director of bomber programs. “I think it all hinges on, in these fiscally challenging times, can we afford a program like this or can you come up with different ways of financing or paying for the program? So I think those discussions are going to be coming to a head during this year.”
The Air Force’s current thinking is to replace the TF33 with eight modern regional jet engines that hew closely to the size, weight and thrust of the original [CF-34? http://www.geaviation.com/commercial/engines/cf34/ h/t Steve Daly], thus minimizing any structural redesign to the B-52’s wings, Noetzel said. The service has issued two requests for information (RFI) to engine manufacturers, gleaning performance and technical information about potential options, which it then fed into its assessment...
Air Force Laser Weapons to Defend B-52 Bomber
Possibly using an externally-mounted POD with sufficient transportable electrical power, the Air Force Research Lab is already working on experimental demonstrator laser weapons able to bolt-on to an aircraft
Air Force scientists are working to arm the B-52 with defensive laser weapons able to incinerate attacking air-to-air or air-to-ground missile attack.
Offensive and defensive laser weapons for Air Force fighter jets and large cargo aircraft have been in development for several years now. However, the Air Force Research Lab has recently embarked upon a special five-year effort, called the SHIELD program, aimed at creating sufficient on-board power, optics and high-energy lasers able to defend large platforms such as a B-52 bomber.
“You can take out the target if you put the laser on the attacking weapon for a long enough period of time,” Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an exclusive interview.
Possibly using an externally-mounted POD with sufficient transportable electrical power, the AFRL is already working on experimental demonstrator weapons able to bolt-on to an aircraft, Zacharias added.
Given that an external POD would add shapes to the fuselage which would make an aircraft likely to be vulnerable to enemy air defense radar systems, the bolt-on defensive laser would not be expected to work on a stealthy platform, he explained.
However, a heavily armed B-52, as a large 1960s-era target, would perhaps best benefit from an ability to defend itself from the air; such a technology would indeed be relevant and potentially useful to the Air Force, as the service is now immersed in a series of high-tech upgrades for the B-52 so that it can continue to serve for decades to come.
Defending a B-52 could becoming increasing important in years to come if some kind of reconfigured B-52 is used as the Pentagon’s emerging Arsenal Plane or “flying bomb truck.”....
There is a story that the USAF wants to re-engine the B-52's but cant afford to. Do what can be done to keep the planes flying.All new air frames would be very expensive.Its alot easier to go the boneyard and modernize the air frames in storage. I predict the USAF will get the money to start upgrading the engines.
The Air Force wants new engines for its venerable B-52 Stratofortress bomber fleet, but there’s no money in the budget to pay for them, Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson said Tuesday.
Proposals for replacing the eight Pratt & Whitney TF33 engines on the B-52s, which burn about 3,000 gallons of fuel an hour, have been around the Pentagon for years. Replacement “makes great sense,” Wilson said. “If we had it in our budget, we’d buy it, but we don’t have it.”
Wilson was responding to questions at a House Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday from Rep. Ralph Abraham, a Louisiana Republican, who said that new engines would increase the B-52s’ range by about 30 percent and boost loiter time over targets by 150 percent.
The general agreed and confirmed that new engines would also boost fuel efficiency and lower maintenance costs. “Operationally, it makes great sense,” he said. “If we had the money, we’d do it.”