Engine maker Pratt & Whitney (P&W) has won a Pentagon contract valued up to $870 million for sustainment of TF33 engines, which power Boeing B-52H heavy bombers and Boeing E-3 Sentry airborne early warning jets.

The TF33 is the military designation for P&W’s JT3 commercial jet engine.

The sustainment contract, which the Pentagon announced on 14 November, covers a six-year base period but includes an option for services to be extended by four years, to 2034.

P&W says there are nearly 1,000 TF33 engines in service globally across the US Air Force (USAF) fleet.

B-52 with TF33 engine

Source: US Pacific Air Forces

Boeing’s ageing B-52H heavy bombers are each powered by eight Pratt & Whitney TF33 engines, which have now been in service for more than 60 years

The latest sustainment contract will cover maintenance, provision of spare parts, programme management, field service, repairs and engineering support for powerplants, which entered service with the USAF 60 years ago.

“An engine’s sustainment phase is a critical but often under-appreciated portion of military readiness,” says Jill Albertelli, president of military engines at P&W. “The TF33 enterprise is maturing beyond the conventional approach to a more-complete, advanced sustainment process.”

P&W says the funds will let it revamp its TF33 low-volume maintenance programme into a “holistic sustainment solution”. Included in that concept will be a focus on better anticipating maintenance needs, thereby improving aircraft readiness.

“We’ve long sought a material management plan that can improve certainty and forecasting,” says Caroline Cooper, who manages several engine programmes for P&W, including the TF33.

The USAF’s B-52s have an average age of slightly more than 60 years, according to 2022 service data. The fleet has had a mission-capable rate of 59%.

Under the new contract, Cooper says P&W also hopes to expand the TF33’s supply base, which is currently dependent on low-volume production by small sub-contractors.

“These are not big suppliers,” Cooper notes. “These are mom and pop type shops.”

P&W hopes the long-term nature of the latest TF33 sustainment contract, and the associated fiscal stability, will incentivise additional production in the supply chain, she adds.

The USAF is currently testing a replacement powerplant for the B-52 – the Rolls-Royce F130 – which the service plans to include in its B-52J modernisation package for the Cold War-era bomber.