The Air Force’s scheduled date to issue a final request for proposals for the B-52 Commercial Engine Replacement Program (CERP) has been pushed back to early 2020, with contract award coming over one year later, per service documents and officials.

The service had previously expected to release the final RFP by the end of 2019, but a notice posted Dec. 5 on the federal contracting website said the release date had been pushed back several months. The CERP program will replace the eight engines on the B-52H to keep the 1960s-era bombers flying through 2050.

“The government team is continuing to review and post answers to questions from the draft RFP and pre-solicitation conference,” the update said.

Capt. Jacob Bailey, an Air Force press officer, confirmed the dates in a Dec. 16 email to Defense Daily. “The Air Force plans to release the B-52 CERP Request for Proposal (RFP) in the second quarter of Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. Contract award is projected for third quarter FY 2021,” he said.

The Air Force has not yet decided whether it will issue a second draft RFP, but plans to continue to post updated documents to the federal contracting website through December for industry review, the Dec. 5 notice added.

Pratt & Whitney [UTX], which supplies the bomber’s legacy TF33 engine, Rolls-Royce and General Electric [GE] are all on contract for the initial prototyping phase of the program. Each company has expressed interest in competing for the full contract, with Rolls-Royce pitching its F130 engine and P&W to offer its PW815 engine. GE has indicated it could propose either its CF34-10 or Passport engines.

The Air Force has allocated $1.56 billion to begin the re-engining and expects to spend a total of $7 billion to $8 billion on the program, Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Will Roper has previously said. The CERP is one of a wide range of modernization programs the service has scheduled to keep the B-52s flying nearly 100 years after they came off the production line.

The service has planned to use Section 804 authorities to quickly assess and award prototypes for the program, in the hopes of cutting over one year of time off, compared to traditional research-and-engineering programs.

Congress has looked at the service’s commercial engine replacement program for the Buff with some skepticism. The House-passed version of the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) included a provision that capped the funds to be authorized or appropriated for the program at 75 percent of its request until the service secretary submitted a report to the armed services committees.

That report would include a capability development document for the program, approved by the secretary of the Air Force, and a test and evaluation master plan for the program, approved by the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation.

The Senate-passed version of the FY ’20 NDAA did not include a similar provision, and receded to the House’s provision in the conference version of the bill, which was passed by the House last week and is expected to pass the Senate this week.