The US Air Force is likely to issue a request for proposal for its Boeing B-52H Stratofortress bomber engine replacement programme close to the first quarter of 2019, according to an Air Force document released on 13 March.

The contract for re-engining the USAF’s 76 Boeing B-52H bombers would likely be granted some four to six months after final proposals are submitted, according to the document. The department is looking to acquire at least 608 new, commercially available turbofan engines to replace the eight Pratt & Whitney TF33s each bomber carries.

The USAF decided last June that the TF33, a jet engine first produced 60 years ago, is not sustainable beyond 2030, due to age, parts obsolescence and a shrinking supplier base. Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce and GE Aviation are possible bidders for the engine replacement programme.

The effort to put new engines on the B-52H bomber, and thus extend its lifespan, comes as a result of the USAF’s plan to rely on the bomber for decades to come. The USAF plans to trim its bomber fleet by 2040 down to the B-52H and the forthcoming Northrop Grumman B-21 stealth bomber. The Northrop Grumman B-2 and the Rockwell B-1 are scheduled for retirement.