The contract to reengine the B-52 bomber is expected to be awarded by the end of the month, senior service procurement officials reported on September 21.
The award of the B-52’s Commercial Engine Replacement Program (CERP) is “imminent,” Lt. Gen. Duke Z. Richardson, senior Air Force uniformed procurement official, told reporters at the meeting. AFA Air, Space & Cyber conference. Darlene Costello, acting USAF procurement officer, said the process to assess the final elements of the proposals was underway and source selection should be completed “within a month.” She added: “It could be faster, but I will not accept” a source selection until the program manager’s team have “finished their work.”
The program aims to replace the original TF33 engines of the B-52 with new business-class power plants that are expected to improve fuel consumption by 30% and range by 40%, while requiring much less maintenance. The bidders have stated that their engines are so reliable that they will not need to detach from the wing of the B-52 for overhaul during the remaining life of the bomber.
Richardson said he uses the ‘mid-level acquisition’ approach approved by Congress for prototyping efforts on the CERP will likely save about three years on the program schedule. It might be possible to speed it up a bit more, he said, but the procurement community wants to make sure “that we’re doing it right, … we want to make sure we’re going to ‘step up with discipline.’ . the current engine is 2030, he said, because after that the TF33 is “not going to be very bearable”.
If the program were of a standard type, it would be in the “technological maturation and risk reduction” phase at this point, he said.
GE Aviation, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls Royce submitted bids on the program, which required them to submit electronic proposals that could be compared digitally by Air Force Materiel Command. GE offered the CF34-10 and its Passport engine, while Pratt & Whitney offered its PW800. Rolls Royce offers its F130 engine.
Pratt & Whitney initially proposed an upgrade to the TF33, but the Air Force rejected the idea.
CERP will likely convert to a major acquisition program once the initial phase is complete, Costello said.
The Air Force intends to replace all eight engines in each of the 76 B-52s, for a total of around 608 power plants, plus spare parts. The service wants to keep the B-52 until around 2050. He said the program, which industry officials say could be worth $ 10 billion, could potentially pay for itself by avoiding maintenance and saving fuel.
Boeing will integrate the selected engine on the B-52, converting the jet’s old analog engine controls to digital controls. While Boeing provided “information” to the Air Force on which engines were relatively easier or harder to integrate – and on other changes that might be needed – the company made no recommendations for any engines in effect. particular, said a Boeing program official. Boeing will decide how the engines are to be placed on the wings and whether to mount them in twin-engine nacelles, like the TF33s are fitted now. The official said the disused infrared blisters on the plane’s nose will be removed to improve airflow to the new engines, restoring the plane’s original profile.
In addition to the B-52’s engines, the Air Force plans to replace the bomber’s radar, communications systems and much of the cockpit.