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General Electric Wants To Keep America's B-52s In The Air Until 2097 (At Least) - B-52.jpg

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Old June 22nd 20, 03:23 AM posted to alt.binaries.pictures.aviation
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Default General Electric Wants To Keep America's B-52s In The Air Until 2097 (At Least) - B-52.jpg


The B-52 Stratofortress ainít new. The first one flew nearly seventy years ago
in 1952. The last ones were built ten years later. But just because itís already
been around for decades doesnít mean it doesnít have a lot more fight left in
it. At least General Electric seems to think so.

General Electric is trying to convince the Air Force and congressional bean
counters that its re-engining program could extend the lifespan of the B-52
platform more than seventy years into the future. The Air Force has already
planned to keep the planes in the air through the 2040s even as the new B-21
Raider stealth bomber comes into service as well, but General Electric thinks
the B-52 has a little more life left in it to give. Nearly sixty more years
worth, to be exact

GE comes after the Air Force submitted a request for bids to re-engine the
bombers to jet engine manufacturers earlier this year in April, with the winner
expected to implement its plan once a vendor is chosen next year. GE isnít alone
in competing. Rolls Royce and original engine B-52 supplier Pratt & Whitney are
both looking for a piece of the action as well.

Until now, B-52s have been powered by Pratt & Whitney TF33 engines that arenít
dissimilar to what youíd find on a Boeing 707. Old as they are, plans to replace
the TF33s have been floated and sunk repeatedly in the past. The last time
discussions about re-engining the old bombers seriously came up was in 2015.
That never really went anywhere.

The engines that GE is proposing are the CF34-10 and the Passport series, both
of which have extensive commercial applications that GE claims are a testament
to their reliability and ease of maintenance. Sharing components with commercial
equipment has been a goal of American military procurement in recent years,
sometimes complicating maintenance more than it simplifies. That said, when it
comes to something as complex as a jet engine, perhaps a little parts
commonality isnít the worst thing in the world.

You wouldnít be mistaken for wondering why the Air Force is looking to keep a
strategic bomber built to destroy with atomic force cities and military
installations in an adversary that no longer exists, but while the Cold War as
we once knew it is over, the Air Force has managed to drastically reformulate
the B-52's mission over the course of its lifespan.

Strategic Air Command patrols with thermonuclear weapons on board ready for the
directive to obliterate some corner of the Soviet Union were replaced by
carpet-bombing runs over Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos during the Ď60s and Ď70s
and eventually the plane would become a high-tech platform supporting all kinds
of warfare, from its original strategic bombing role to maritime patrol to
operating as a launcher for stand-off weapons from far beyond the horizon. These
roles canít easily be filled by the incoming B-21 Raider stealth bomber and
thatís why the Air Force is looking to keep these planes around as long as they

While a platform lifespan close to 150 years seems insane for an aircraft, there
is some precedent for keeping military equipment of some types around for
incredibly long periods of time. Usually, theyíre ships, though, like the USS
Blue Ridge, an amphibious command ship launched in 1969 and still in service
today. The Russian navy even has a commissioned submarine salvage ship, the
Kommuna, which saw service in the Tsarís navy and the Soviet Navy since it was
first launched in 1915.

But the lifespans of those ships will pale in comparison with the near-150-year
service life of B-52s proposed by GE as part of this plan. While we know the
planes are resilient enough to come back into service after a serious cockpit
fire, we donít know how theyíll contend with changing tactical considerations,
environmental changes, and even just plain old metal fatigue as they continue to

One thing is sure, though. We already know that generations of institutional
knowledge have continued to make the B-52 a formidable component of Americaís
air defense strategy for decades. If we double the length of the planeís career,
weíll see another six or more generations of airmen and women flying B-52s,
adding to the already thick mythos surrounding the eight-engined monster of a


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