Rolls-Royce said on March 1 that it has begun testing its F130 engine for the B-52 bomber at the company’s outdoor testing site at NASA Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

In September 2021, the U.S. Air Force awarded Rolls-Royce a Commercial Engine Replacement Program (CERP) contract worth potentially $2.6 billion through fiscal 2038 for the re-engining of the Boeing [BA] B-52s with the F130 engine, based on Rolls-Royce’s commercial BR725 carried on Gulfstream [GD] G650 business jets (Defense Daily, Sept. 24, 2021).

Rolls-Royce said it may deliver more than 600 F130s for the eight-engined B-52 under CERP to extend the life of the venerable B-52 another 30 years–an extension which may mean that the B-52 becomes a centenarian. Rolls-Royce is to build the engines in its Indianapolis plant. The company said that it has invested $1 billion in recent years to modernize its manufacturing, testing, and advanced technology facilities in Indiana.

The Rolls-Royce CERP win in 2021 was significant for the company, as Pratt & Whitney [RTX] was the incumbent, having built the B-52’s TF33-PW-103 engines, which the Air Force expects to retire by 2030. For CERP, the Air Force wanted a new, commercial B-52 engine up to 30 percent more fuel efficient than the TF33.

The F130 testing at Stennis “is the first time F130 engines have been tested in the dual-pod engine configuration of the B-52,” Rolls-Royce said. “The engine testing will focus on crosswind aerodynamic flow as well as confirming the successful operation of the engine’s digital controls system. Early results from the testing have been very positive with additional test data to be analyzed over the next several months.”

The company said that the F130s “are so durable they are expected to remain on wing for the remainder of the aircraft life.”

Candice Bineyard, Rolls-Royce’s director of defense programs, said in a statement that the company is collaborating with the Air Force and Boeing on integrated engine testing and that the F130’s performance “will result in higher fuel efficiency, reduced air refueling requirements, and significantly lower maintenance costs for the B-52 fleet.