16 Striking Images Demonstrating the Unstoppable Power of the B-52 Bomber

  • February 6, 2024

The B-52 Bomber: A Testament to Timelessness

The B-52 Bomber is truly an astonishing aircraft. Despite its age and the fact that it was originally conceived in the 1950s, this venerable aircraft continues to defy expectations. With the introduction of new engines and various upgrades, the B-52 Stratofortress could potentially serve for close to a century.

In this article, we bring you the latest coverage of the B-52, accompanied by 16 breathtaking photos that underscore why this bomber commands such profound respect.

Sticker shock has gripped most Americans in recent weeks as they’ve filled up their gas tanks or strolled through grocery store aisles. Inflation continues to drive up prices for everything, from daily necessities to durable goods, leaving most Americans having to make do with less.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military is grappling with its own form of sticker shock.

According to Air Force Magazine, the cost of upgrading the B-52 Stratofortress is significantly higher than what some U.S. Air Force officials initially anticipated. The expense of re-engining, which is essential to extend the operational life of these aging Cold War-era bombers through the 2050s, has reportedly surged by 50%. And this cost increase isn’t solely due to rising material costs.

Air Force acquisition executive Andrew P. Hunter acknowledged the cost escalation in the B-52 Commercial Engine Replacement Program during his testimony to the U.S. House Armed Services Committee.

“We currently believe there is cost growth from our design work that we did originally through the middle-tier acquisition program to what we anticipate we’ll be looking at [in] Milestone B,” Hunter explained, referring to the stage where a project’s readiness for engineering and manufacturing development is evaluated.

The Rolls-Royce of Engines

Last September, the Air Force announced that Rolls-Royce had been awarded a $2.6 billion Commercial Engine Replacement Program contract to keep the B-52s airborne and in service. These new engines were seen as a significant upgrade over the aging Pratt & Whitney-made TF33 engines, which trace their origins back to the early 1960s. The F130 engines have a proven track record, amassing more than 27 million engine flight hours.

“The F130 is the perfect fit for the B-52 with proven reliability, superb life cycle cost, and low integration risk,” the engine’s manufacturer stated when awarded the contract. “A variant of the Rolls-Royce engine selected to power the iconic B-52 is already in service with the USAF around the world, powering both the C-37 and E-11 BACN aircraft.”

Rolls-Royce also announced its intention to employ state-of-the-art digital engineering tools to determine how best to integrate these engines with the aging bombers. The company has already created digital models of the massive bombers, enabling engineers to simulate the fit of the new engines with other components and systems. Rolls-Royce also exchanged digital models with Boeing, the original manufacturer of the aircraft, to precisely position the F130 engines within the B-52’s nacelles and determine optimal component placement.

Not So Low Integration Costs

Hunter clarified to the House Committee that cost increases are primarily related to the integration of the engines on the B-52s, an endeavor led by Boeing. This cost escalation is less connected to the engines themselves, as they will be manufactured by Rolls-Royce.

“I want to emphasize that a lot of that engineering work is actually inside the airplane, on the support struts to which the engines attach, versus the engine itself, which is largely a commercial engine that already exists,” Hunter emphasized. He added that the engine requires only “a modest number of modifications.”

Despite these challenges and rising costs, the B-52 Stratofortress remains an iconic symbol of military aviation, and efforts to extend its service life underscore its enduring importance. As these remarkable photos depict, the B-52 continues to play a vital role in the U.S. Air Force’s mission and global security efforts.

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