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Oldest U.S. Bomber Will Get Rolls-Royce Engines Over GE, Pratt

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 9/24/2021 Tony Capaccio
S. Korea And U.S. Deploy B-52 Strategic Bomber Over Korean Peninsula © Photographer: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images S. Korea And U.S. Deploy B-52 Strategic Bomber Over Korean Peninsula

(Bloomberg) -- Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc’s North America unit beat General Electric Co. and incumbent Pratt & Whitney to provide upgraded engines for the Air Force’s aging B-52 bomber in an award that could grow to $2.6 billion, the Pentagon announced Friday.

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Rolls-Royce was given an initial $501 million, six-year base contract to supply 608 engines, as well as spares, sustainment and engineering data through 2038 for installation on the Air Force’s 76 active-duty and reserve B-52s. Each plane has eight engines.

The deal could grow to $2.6 billion if all options are exercised. The Air Force wants to keep the B-52 in service until about 2050. The engine replacement is part of an upgrade program estimated at $11 billion that includes new flight systems, cockpit throttles and cockpit displays.

The B-52, which first flew Cold War missions in 1954 with nuclear bombs, has since evolved into a non-nuclear, precision-guided weapons platform. It’s known affectionately among aviators as BUFF, an acronym sometimes described as “Big Ugly Fat Fellow.”

Work will be performed at the Rolls-Royce facility in Indianapolis and is expected to be completed by September 2038, the Pentagon said. Rolls-Royce said it has invested more than $600 million in Indianapolis in advanced manufacturing and technology “to create the most advanced engine manufacturing site in the U.S.”

General Electric’s bids included its CF34-10 and Passport engines. Pratt & Whitney, a unit of Raytheon Technologies Corp., offered its PW800. 

Most recently, B-52s were deployed to provide air cover for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan -- bookending the Pentagon’s 20-year war in that country.  B-52s directed by U.S. special operations forces using laser-designators and GPS dropped precision-guided bombs on the Taliban during the early weeks of the Afghanistan invasion. 

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