While a significant U.S. Air Force award for the Commercial Engine Replacement Program (CERP) for the Boeing [BA] B-52H bomber looms–possibly as early as this summer, nacelle and strut builders are also looking to a subsequent award for the engine selected.
Collins Aerospace [RTX] is highlighting its decades of experience providing 5,952 nacelles and 2,976 struts for the B-52 dating back to Rohr Aircraft in the 1950s. The B-52 has eight Pratt & Whitney [RTX] TF33-PW-103 engines in twin nacelles on four struts.
“Corporately, we have an energized workforce,” Lane Farka, associate director for military business development for Collins Aerospace’s aerostructures group in Chula Vista, Calif., said in an interview last week. “Everyone’s buzzing. Everyone’s excited. Their grandpa worked on this B-52. They saw the nacelle and the strut on the Pacific Coast Highway float in 1956 in California. It’s really been the pride and joy of our company, and the fact that it’s coming back around and we’re positioned as the experts in nacelle technology and a top-tier supplier to Boeing puts us in a really good position to continue driving low-cost and low-risk back to the program.”
Other nacelle and strut builders include Wichita-based Spirit AeroSystems, Tulsa-based NORDAM Group, and United Kingdom-based GKN Aerospace.
Spirit AeroSystems has also expressed interest in the B-52 CERP program and has said its experience with the three-engine competitors will serve the company well.
Spirit’s “work on integrated engine structures like struts and pylons for every Boeing airplane currently in production, as well as nacelle/thrust reversers on the 737 and 777 family, demonstrate Spirit’s ability to integrate with any engine selected,” per Spirit AeroSystems.
Collins Aerospace also highlighted its experience with the three propulsion providers. “We are really engine agnostic,” Farka said. “It’s not going to be outside of our capability to do a quick turn–low-cost, low-risk solution for that engine.”
For CERP, Pratt & Whitney is pitching its PW815 engine, which powers the Gulfstream [GD] G600 business jet; while Rolls-Royce is offering its F130 engine, based on the commercial BR725 carried on Gulfstream G650 business jets; and GE Aviation [GE] is offering two engines–the CF34-10, aboard Bombardier CRJ series airliners, and the Passport 20, carried on Bombardier’s Global 7500 business jet.
Last May, the Air Force released its request for proposals for CERP to build 608 new commercial engines, plus provide additional spare engines and other support equipment and data over a 17-year performance period (Defense Daily, May 20, 2020). That includes one six-year basic period, one five-year option period and six one-year options, currently slated for fiscal year 2021 through FY 2035.
The winner will deliver 16-64 engines initially for integration onto at least two prototype aircraft.
“We have given the request for proposal to industry, and they are sorting through their particular offers back to us,” Air Force Gen. Timothy Ray, the commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, said last week at the Air Force Association 2021 virtual Aerospace Warfare Symposium. “We are waiting to see what those look like.”
Ray said that those answers are due back this summer but that he is unsure of when the Air Force will award a CERP contract.
Collins Aerospace “is really focused on CERP exploring areas where we can provide innovative and cost effective solutions to support Boeing in that overall effort as the integrator for the CERP activity,” Michael Lipke, Collins Aerospace’s director of business development for strategic pursuits, said last week. “We’re hoping to provide key solutions–everything from electric power generation to engine sensors and protection systems, anywhere we can help support Boeing in that program. One of the key areas that we hope to provide value to Boeing is really on the B-52 nacelle and strut.”
Due to a delay in the CERP virtual system prototype (vSP) contract, defense authorizers removed $25.5 million from the Air Force’s $299.4 million request for CERP in fiscal 2021, while defense appropriators knocked off the $25.5 million for CERP this year for the amount being “excess to need.” House authorizers had proposed docking CERP $125 million because of the CERP vSP contract delay.
The vSP contract is to support a preliminary system design evaluation of the engine selected by the Air Force.
Congress has had some concerns on the Section 804 rapid prototyping strategy for CERP. The fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act conference report required the Air Force to submit a report on the program, including its key performance parameters, and withheld 25 percent of the $175 million allocated that year for CERP until the report was submitted. The CERP RfP largely included the information requested by Congress, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Boeing’s CERP integration work includes designing new nacelles and engine pylons, accommodating the greater power capacity of the new engines, replacing the steam gauge engine instruments in the cockpit with LED displays, new sensors, a new air data system with a full authority digital engine control (FADEC) on each engine to tune engine performance, and a conversion of the mechanical positioning system for the pilot’s throttle to an electronic signal.
On Dec. 5, 2019, former Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper signed a CERP “Justification and Approval for Other than Full and Open Competition,” which acknowledged the “significant risk” in integrating commercial engine technologies on the B-52. The document said, however, that requirements on the CERP competitors to perform virtual prototyping and submit risk analyses on their proposed engines would mitigate that risk.