Invincible Or Outdated? Could The B-52 Bomber Have Finally Met Its Match?

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You should note the following: More efficient engines could save $ 10 billion in fuel and maintenance costs by 2040, Tirpak reported, citing Air Force documents. The service wants 608 engines - eight for each B-52.
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Sixty-seven years after the U.S. Air Force received its last B-52 from Boeing, the flight department has finally fleshed out plans to equip the heavy bomber with new engines.
In its January 2019 issue, Air Force magazine gave a deep look at the restructuring efforts.
"If the Air Force's plans hold, the B-52 will be in service for almost a century by 2050," wrote reporter John Tirpak. "To keep the aircraft running, the service plans to equip each B-52 with new engines that are expected to be so much easier to maintain and more efficient that they will pay for themselves in just 10 years."
In addition to new engines, the 76 B-52s in the air force could also get improved avionics, defense equipment, sensors, and ejection seats, war zone reporter Joe Trevithick revealed. The revised, improved bombers could be given the new designation B-52J.
In 2018, the Air Force announced that it would be releasing its 62 B-1B bombers from the 1980s and 20 newer B-2 stealth bombers by the 2040s at the latest, while the updated B-52 alongside at least 100 new ones B-52 would continue to work. 21 stealth bombers.
"Despite their age, the B-52s have high mission rates, can carry a wide variety of weapons and work effectively - as long as the enemy has no sophisticated air defenses," Tirpak wrote. “Even in a high-end battle, the B-52 can fire missiles from far outside enemy air defense. It is the only U.S. bomber capable of launching nuclear cruise missiles and will be the first platform for the new long-range stand-off missile. "
It took two decades for the B-52 upgrade plan to reach this point. Since 1996, the Air Force has conducted no fewer than 13 studies examining options for new engines for the 240-ton bomber. From early 2019, the B-52H will still be flying the same TF-33 engines manufactured by Pratt & Whitney that have been driving the type since 1962.
A 2018 Air Force briefing mentioned the "inefficient and limited performance of the TF-33 compared to modern, commercially available engines". The Pratt & Whitney engines are "expensive and labor intensive to maintain the aging of parts".
"Modern engines are so much more reliable than the TF-33 once installed that the new engines will probably never need to be removed," Tirpak wrote. "The time between overhauls for this engine class is typically around 30,000 hours - more than the number of hours the service plans to fly the bombers for the rest of their lives."
The aim when replacing the engines is to improve the fuel efficiency of the B-52 by at least 20 percent while maintaining the upper limit and the starting power. A B-52H with TF-33 engines can carry 35 tons of bombs and missiles up to 4,500 miles without air refueling at a top speed of 650 miles per hour.
"Despite rumors to the contrary, Isabelle said the Air Force was not looking for much better physical performance from the new engines - for example, time to climb or top speed - although this could turn out to be a welcome by-product," said Tirpak.
In 2018, the Air Force estimated the cost of extending the life of the B-52 - including retrofitting other performance improvements - was around $ 32 billion.
Between 2011 and 2016, the Air Force cost around $ 1.2 billion a year to operate 76 B-52s, the Government Accountability Office reported in 2018.
More efficient engines could save $ 10 billion in fuel and maintenance costs by 2040, Tirpak reported, citing Air Force documents. The service wants 608 engines - eight for each B-52.
The Air Force has not yet found all of the money for the B-52 upgrade program. "We are working on our leadership to develop an acquisition strategy," said James Hunsicker, deputy chief of the bomber requirements service, to Tirpak.
The Air Force used Boeing to integrate the new engines. Pratt & Whitney, General Electric and Rolls-Royce have all proposed engine types for the B-52. The Air Force announced in 2017 that it would test new engines on two B-52s as early as 2022, choose a contractor before 2026, and complete the conversion project before 2034.
David Ax is the defense editor of National Interest. He is the author of the graphic novels War Fix, War Is Boring and Machete Squad. This article was first published last year.
Image: Reuters.
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