The Air Force has selected Rolls-Royce to re-engine the B-52 fleet, awarding the company a contract worth up to $2.6 billion to provide 608 engines and spares.
Rolls-Royce’s F130 engine was selected over offerings from competitors General Electric and Pratt & Whitney, the incumbent B-52 engine manufacturer. The company plans to manufacture the engine at its Indianapolis facility, which recently underwent a $600 million advanced manufacturing upgrade.
“We are proud to join a truly iconic U.S. Air Force program and provide world-class, American-made engines that will power its missions for the next 30 years,” Rolls-Royce North America CEO Tom Bell said in a press release today. “The F130 is a proven, efficient, modern engine that is the perfect fit for the B-52.”
The engine replacement effort is meant to improve the B-52’s fuel efficiency and range and keep the bomber flying into the 2050s.
Bell told reporters tonight that while the company will have a better sense of what set it apart from competitors following its debrief with the Air Force, he thinks the relatively low-risk design of the F130 played a role. He said the engine will require minimal changes to the B-52 wing, cell and pylons.
“In the F130, we have an engine where the thrust, the center of gravity, the circumference is very similar to the existing engine, but has a far superior service life, far superior fuel consumption numbers that allow the Air Force to get everything they wanted out of the CERP engine program,” Bell said.
Craig McVay, the company’s senior vice president for strategic campaigns, said during the media call that with the first phase of virtual prototyping completed, the company will proceed to Phase 2, during which it will complete a physical prototype. McVay said he expects a preliminary design review to occur within eight or nine months.
The Air Force is using mid-tier acquisition authorities for the program and expects to shift to a traditional acquisition pathway or to a rapid-fielding MTA once the prototype is complete, likely in the fiscal year 2025 timeframe.
The Air Force had originally expected to complete virtual prototyping and award a contract by last December, but that timeline shifted about nine months due to a longer-than-expected preliminary design phase and a decision by the service to shift some work from the program’s later physical prototyping phase to the virtual phase.