Future B-52 engines on the test bench
Future B-52 engines on the test bench
© Rolls-Royce

| Gaétan Powis | Source : Air&Cosmos 342 mots

Future B-52 engines on the test bench

Rolls-Royce is testing for the first time a dual F130 engine nacelle, which will soon be used to re-engine the U.S. Air Force's B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber. With an estimated service life of more than 30 years, these engines will take the Stratofortress past the 100-year mark.

First dual pod tests

On March 1, Rolls-Royce announced that the future engines for the B-52 Stratofortress were in the testing phase. The F130 engine had already been tested on a test stand, but this is the first time a fully equipped twin pod with two F130 engines has gone through a test stand. The performance of both engines will be analyzed, focusing in particular on the aerodynamic flow in crosswinds and the proper functioning of the digital engine control system. The tests are underway at the Rolls-Royce test stand, located at NASA's Stennis Space Center, Mississippi, USA.

The re-engined B-52

This is a major milestone for Rolls-Royce, but also for Boeing and the U.S. Air Force, as the F130s will extend the life of the B-52 by 30 years! Thanks to this contract, Rolls-Royce has invested $1 billion to modernize its assembly plant and test facilities in Indiana. It is from this American state that the 650 engines of the Stratofortress will come out.

As a reminder, on September 24, 2021, the USAF had designated the Rolls-Royce F130 as the future engine of the B-52. These are currently powered by eight Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-3/103 engines, assembled in four twin nacelles. The F130 is an engine derived from Rolls-Royce's BR family of engines and powers the USAF's C-37A/B VIP transport and E-11A BACN relay aircraft, among others, as well as many civilian aircraft.

A 100-year-old aircraft

So far, the US Air Force plans to operate B-52s beyond 2050. With that very goal in mind, the Stratofortress will be re-engined. The B-52, originally designed for strategic bombing and deterrence missions, has been gradually modernized over time. Its conventional bombing missions have also been transformed: what started out as a veritable "bomb truck" over Vietnam targets has turned into a true air-to-ground missile platform with stand-off capabilities.

Thus, with numerous upgrades, modernizations and construction of new variants, this aircraft continues to approach the symbolic date of 100 years of service in the USAF (first flight April 15, 1952, commissioned June 29, 1955).

B-52H Barksdale
The 4 pods of two TF-33s are clearly visible on this B-52H (Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, USA). © USAF
B-52H Barksdale

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