Lawmakers are urging the White House to fully fund B-52 modernization in the fiscal year 2019 budget request, including $65 million for a B-52 re-engining effort.
In a Jan. 31 letter addressed to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, six senators -- four Democrats and two Republicans -- call for continued investment in ongoing B-52 modernization efforts, which include a new bomb bay, improved satellite communications and a radar replacement effort. They also argue for near-term investment in a new engine for the aging bomber fleet, which is slated to fly through 2050.
"Funding the re-engining program in FY 2019 would enable production on a time line that enables engine enhancement or replacement before the current engines become obsolete," the letter states. "Beyond the critical need to push the engine sustainability through the service life of the B-52, the considerable benefits modernized propulsion would provide for the operational capability and cost-effectiveness of the aircraft make the case for re-engining clear."
The Air Force hasn't finalized an acquisition strategy for a B-52 re-engining, but floated a notional schedule during a Dec. 12 industry day. That schedule said the service could release a request for proposals and select an engine integrator in FY-18 and could choose an engine design as soon as FY-20.
"Because full funding for the re-engining program represents sound stewardship of both national defense and taxpayer money, we hope the president's FY 2019 budget request will fully fund this program," lawmakers state in their Jan. 31 letter.
Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), James Lankford (R-OK) and John Hoeven (R-ND) signed the letter.
Boeing is the B-52 prime contractor and Pratt & Whitney built the current TF33 engine. Pratt, GE Aviation and Rolls Royce have all expressed interest in the re-engining.
The Defense Department is slated to release its FY-19 budget request Feb. 12.