Rolls-Royce has commenced testing in support of a re-engining programme for the US Air Force’s (USAF’s) Boeing B-52H fleet, for the first time pairing its F130 powerplants in the bomber’s distinctive dual-pod configuration.

The engine manufacturer – which recently began the work using a test rig at its site at the NASA Stennis Space Center in Mississippi – says the process “will focus on crosswind aerodynamic flow, as well as confirming the successful operation of the engine’s digital controls system”.

F130 dual-pod test

Source: Rolls-Royce

Initial work will focus on assessing performance of F130 engines in dual-pod configuration

“Early results from the testing have been very positive, with additional test data to be analysed over the next several months,” the company says.

Candice Bineyard, R-R’s director, programmes – defence, notes that the re-engining effort will “result in higher fuel efficiency, reduced air[-to-air] refuelling requirements, and significantly lower maintenance costs for the B-52 fleet”.

The USAF in September 2021 selected the F130 as a replacement for the B-52’s legacy Pratt & Whitney TF33 turbofans. More than 600 of the engines will be produced at R-R’s Indianapolis site in Indiana.

The propulsion modernisation is planned to enable the eight-engined B-52H to remain in operational use for another 30 years. “F130 engines are so durable they are expected to remain on wing for the remainder of the aircraft life,” R-R notes.

In addition to replacing the bomber fleet’s TF33 engines, the USAF is also funding a radar modernisation effort for the type, involving the integration of a version of Raytheon’s APG-79 active electronically scanned array.