THE US AIR FORCE'S remaining fleet of Boeing B-52H bombers will be re-engined with Rolls-Royce RB.211 turbofan engines, if the Pentagon accepts an unsolicited offer from Boeing.

The bid made to the USAF's Air Logistics Center involves upgrading 94 of the eight-engined B-52H Stratofortress strategic bombers. It follows a year-long feasibility study by Boeing, which included a competition among turbofan-power plant manufacturers.

Four RB.211-535E4Bs would replace the eight twin-podded 75kN (17,000lb)-thrust Pratt & Whitney TF33s now on the aircraft.

R-R has previously unsuccessfully pitched a B-52 re-engineing programme, involving the 190kN RB.211. The RB.211s would be assembled by Allison Engine, R-R's engine-making subsidiary in the USA, driving up US work content.

Allison says that the B-52H Engine Modernisation and Logistic Support Programme would extend the B-52H's useful life well into the next century.

The upgrade would reduce maintenance costs and increase operational readiness. A long-term lease arrangement and use of commercial, rather than military, maintenance support is being proposed. Should it get the go-ahead, Boeing's Wichita, Kansas-based Product Support division would manage the project. The deal would bring Boeing alone about $1.3 billion. The company estimates that the USAF could save $6 billion in operation and support costs over 25 years.

The cost of the engines is not disclosed, but R-R officials previously estimated $3 billion in engineering and manufacturing development and procurement costs.

Source: Flight International