Rolls-Royce officially plans to pitch its F130 engine to replace the aging systems on the Air Force’s B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber, in a possible three-way competition with Pratt & Whitney [UTX] and GE Aviation [GE] for a potentially lucrative contract.
Rolls-Royce announced Feb. 25 that it plans to offer the F130 engine, which is based on its commercial BR725 system to replace the B-52’s current P&W TF33-PW-103 systems. It already powers the Air Force’s Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN)-enabled E-11A Bombardier jet, as well as the C-37A VIP transport jet, built by Gulfstream Aerojet [GD].
Should it win the re-engine competition, Rolls-Royce will assemble the engine at its Indianapolis facilities, creating 150 new jobs in the area. The company has invested $600 million to modernize the plant there to prepare for optimized production. Rolls-Royce plans to conduct digital engineering and parts manufacture, as well as assembly and test in the Indianapolis facility, company officials said during a Monday media call.
Indianapolis is the British vehicle and engine maker’s largest engineering, design and manufacturing site in the United States, and is the production location for engines in use on the Lockheed Martin [LMT] C-130J transport aircraft, the Bell [TXT] and Boeing [BA] CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and Northrop Grumman’s [NOC] RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft.
The F130 engine will be compliant with the Buy America Act, with the majority of parts to be American-made, either at Rolls-Royce Indianapolis or within the US supply chain.
Pratt & Whitney plans to pitch its PW815 for the re-engine competition. GE has not yet officially disclosed its proposed engine.
The B-52 aircraft contains eight engines, all original to the H models that last rolled off the production line in 1962. The re-engining program will include 650 new systems. The Air Force has previously expressed plans to release a request for proposals by the end of this fiscal year, with initial operating capability scheduled for the mid-2020s, and full operating capability occurring in 2030.
The service completes about 30 to 40 engine refurbishments per year at a cost of about $1.9 million, according to Air Force Global Strike Command, who operates the B-52. Analysts have noted that a new off-the-shelf engine for the bomber could cost about $3 million apiece, and a full upgrade with eight new engines, additional support and testing could add up to $25 million per aircraft.