The Air Force plans to release an request for proposals (RFP) for re-engining the B-52 this summer, and could convert some of the planes into tankers, a top service official said Tuesday.

“We think we’ll have some data to be able to go forward this summer” with an RFP, Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC), said during a Peter Huessy Breakfast Series event.

The B-52 Stratofortress.  Photo: U.S. Air Force.
The B-52 Stratofortress.
Photo: U.S. Air Force.

 Maintaining 1950s-era engines has become expensive, and the updated engines would provide more reliability and economy. “Today, almost every industry partner has come forward and said they could give us about 35 percent more fuel-efficiency. What that means is I can get about 35 percent more range on the B-52, which is already substantial, which also means I can use about a third less tankers. They can be repurposed to do other things and fill a need that we have for tankers.”

The October request for information (RFI) for B52 re-engining has attracted interest from Rolls-Royce [RR], General Electric [GE] and Boeing [BA], industry officials told sister publication Weapons Complex Morning Briefing.  Each B-52 flies on eight Pratt & Whitney [UTX] TF33-P-3/103 turbofan engines. Wilson said AFGSC’s team is working with Air Force Materiel Command, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment & Energy, and the B-52 System Program Office (SPO) and Boeing–which has helped the SPO investigate airframe impacts after eliminating low-level missions–hammering out the monetary and operational aspects of the re-engining.