The U.S. Air Force may deliver a Selected Acquisition Report (SAR) on the B-52H Commercial Engine Replacement Program (CERP) in the coming weeks.

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

The fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act provides that “not more than 75 percent” of fiscal 2022 CERP funds “may be obligated or expended until the date on which the secretary of defense submits to the congressional defense committees the [cost] report.”

On Aug. 10, Air Force Col. Louis Ruscetta, the senior materiel leader of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s B-52 division, said that Congress normally does not require a SAR until after a program reaches Milestone B to enter into engineering and manufacturing development. “We have submitted that [re-engining SAR] to the Air Force,” he said. “It has not been delivered. It should be delivered in the very near future. It’s just going through staffing.”

Last year’s B-52 re-engining win was a significant one for Rolls-Royce, 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.

CERP has been the top Air Force modernization priority for the B-52H, but lawmakers are concerned by rising program costs.

Wichita-based Spirit AeroSystems [SPR] is to provide the engine pylons and nacelles for the initial phase of CERP, while Collins Aerospace [RTX] is supplying the engine power generation system. Air Force plans have called for CERP to include 608 new commercial engines, plus additional spare engines and other support equipment and data over a 17-year performance period.

The initial B-52 re-engining contract has an estimated value of nearly $501 million over six years. Rolls-Royce is to build the engines in Indianapolis. The company said that it had invested $600 million in Indiana technology and advanced manufacturing programs, including the plant in Indianapolis.

“We just held our engine subsystem preliminary design review last month at Rolls-Royce,” Ruscetta said of CERP on Aug. 10. “I was very happy to see where Rolls-Royce is in moving forward in the design changes they have to do from their commercial variant as well as the relationship between Rolls-Royce and Boeing because Boeing is the integrator for the entire effort…We’re looking at having our full system level design review later on this year.”

Plans have called for the first re-engined B-52 is to come off the line in 2028, while the last is expected in 2035. Initial operational capability is scheduled for 2030, Ruscetta said on Aug. 10. addition to the engine, the contract will update the B-52’s flight deck area, struts and nacelles.

The planned retirements of the Air Force B-1 and B-2 bombers in the next decade to neck down to the 76 B-52Hs and the new Northrop Grumman [NOC] B-21 Raider will put a premium on coordination of the two main B-52 upgrade programs–CERP and the Radar Modernization Program (RMP).

The Air Force has said that the B-52’s APQ-166 terrain-following and mapping radar by Northrop Grumman is based on 1960s technology, last modified in the 1980s, with a high rate-of-failure during operations.

RMP includes a new, active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar based on Raytheon Technology‘s [RTX] APG-79; a new, wide-band radome by L3Harris Technologies [LHX] on the aircraft’s nose; two L3Harris 8 x 20 inch high definition displays for the radar navigator and the navigator; two new, hand controllers by California-based Mason Controls; and new display sensor system processors by L3Harris to interface between the radar and other B-52 systems.

Air Force Materiel Command’s Bombers Directorate said that the B-52’s planned AESA radar is “comparable to what is flying on U.S. Navy F-18 and U.S. Air Force F-15 aircraft.”

“The radar is probably the most exciting modification right now,” Ruscetta said on Aug. 10. “This is really a game changer for performing at long range standoff.”

The Air Force has said that RMP initial operational capability (IOC) on 11 B-52s was to come in 2026, but that may have slipped, as the first radar is not to come off the production line until early 2027. “We’re still pushing for IOC in FY ’27,” Ruscetta said.

RMP is to include better system reliability and maintainability, improved mapping, synthetic aperture radar imagery, navigation accuracy in GPS-denied environments, a better weather map, and search and track for ground moving targets and aerial targets.

RMP went through a Critical Design Review several months ago, and the program is establishing a Radar Systems Integration Lab–a representation of the radar system without the cooling system, Ruscetta said. RSIL is to aid the program in understanding how the radar’s subsystems integrate before flight testing of RMP begins.