The eight-engine B-52 Stratofortress first flew into the sky in 1952, served in Vietnam and continued to work as a key asset of the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War. Although the last aircraft was built in the mid-1960s, the aircraft were constantly updated, and it is currently planned to keep them in the Air Force fleet for about another 20 years. But the manufacturer is ready for a longer period.
It would be a pretty good "run", but General Electric believes that the B-52 can be upgraded and will continue to serve in the XXII century, if the Air Force will cooperate with them. GE has proposed a reengineering program that will replace current Pratt & Whitney engines, similar to those used on the Boeing-707, with some that also have history use in commercial aircraft.
Thus, instead of completely replacing the B-52 in 2040 with the new B-21 Ryder invisible bomber, the updated B-52 could supplement its younger brother for up to 70 years. This would allow the B-52 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of service in 2102!
But neither the Air Force nor GE are simply seeking to preserve the legacy of the B-52. Both see this reengineering option as a way to reduce costs, simplify maintenance, increase reliability and expand fleet capabilities.
In April, the Air Force requested applications for the transfer of the B-52 from its current engine to an updated engine. Therefore, GE views its proposal to extend the life of the aircraft after 2040 as a competitive advantage for this contract, as the company goes head to head with Rolls Royce and Pratt & Whitney.
GE also offers the Air Force a key strategic approach - the ability to implement the same systems used by commercial aircraft. This tactic eliminates a number of potential supply chain problems and provides an organic source of maintenance and reliability information.