By Tony Mathis, CEO and President of GE Aviation’s Military Systems business
The B-52 Stratofortress, affectionately nicknamed the “BUFF,” has been diligently guarding our freedom since the 1950s, and the U.S. Air Force needs to keep it flying past 2050. In order to sustain this legendary aircraft, it needs new engines. The Air Force’s B-52 Commercial Engine Replacement program (CERP) intends to replace the current low-bypass TF33 turbofan engines with new, commercial off-the-shelf engines. GE Aviation is offering two excellent engines proven in the most demanding environments and operating conditions around the globe—the ever-reliable CF34-10 engine and the technologically advanced Passport engine. These two engines are the best choice for the Air Force because they offer the lowest program risk, the highest mission readiness, and the lowest cost of operation.
First of all, GE’s re-engining and jet bomber experience ensures the lowest program risk for the Air Force. Only GE has re-engined three different aircraft for the Air Force—the C-5M Super Galaxy, the KC-135R Stratotanker and the U-2S Dragon Lady. GE also has powered six operational Air Force bombers and advanced prototypes over the past 70 years, more than any other engine maker.
The re-engined C-5M redefined global mobility. GE’s CF6-80C2 engines—military designation F138—replaced the TF39 turbofan engine, adding 22 percent more thrust, a 30 percent shorter take-off roll, a 58 percent faster climb rate, and allowed significantly more cargo to be carried over longer distances. Thanks to the improved capabilities of GE’s new engines, the C-5M Super Galaxy broke 89 certified world records and was a finalist for the Collier Trophy, which recognizes “the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency, and safety of air or space vehicles.”
To re-engine the KC-135, the Air Force chose new commercial CFM56-2B engines—military designation F108—made by CFM International (a partnership between GE Aviation and Safran Aircraft Engines). The F108 engines replaced a mixture of J57 turbojets and the same low-bypass TF33 turbofan engines to be replaced on the B-52. We re-engined 450 KC-135R aircraft, increasing thrust by 100 percent, enabling a 50 percent increase in fuel offload, improving fuel efficiency by 25 percent and reducing takeoff noise levels from 126 to only 99 decibels.
The third re-engining effort GE conducted with the Air Force involved replacing the U-2’s J75 turbojet engines with GE’s F118-101 engines. The F118-powered U-2S increased its ceiling and payload, decreased maintenance costs, and improved fuel consumption by 15 percent, allowing for a 1,220-nautical-mile increase in range and increased time on station. The new U-2S earned the Collier Trophy in 1998.
GE’s 70-year jet bomber experience also ensures the lowest program risk. GE has powered six jet bombers—the B-2 Spirit, the B-1 Lancer, the B-58 Hustler, the B-47 Stratojet, the B-36 Peacemaker and the B-45 Tornado—more than any other engine manufacturer. GE understands the bomber mission, both conventional and nuclear, and the requirement for jet engines that are reliable, easy to maintain and cost effective.
GE’s experience running three re-engining programs and powering six jet bombers means lower program risk for the B-52 re-engining. This experience means GE can execute the B-52 re-engining successfully on time and on cost.
In addition to offering the lowest program risk, GE’s engines offer the highest mission readiness. When it comes to the B-52 mission, readiness is critical. The Air Force needs the most reliable, proven engines to power the B-52 for the next three decades. When failure is not an option you can’t afford to be a testbed for an unproven engine. GE’s commercial experience will uniquely allow the critical mission of the B-52 to succeed on demand.
With a 99.97 percent proven dispatch reliability, the CF34-10 is the world’s most reliable and sustainable engine for the world’s most critical mission. Unlike business jet engines, the CF34-10 operates every day under the harshest environmental conditions—the highest altitudes in the world, the sweltering heat and sand ingestion of the Middle East, Arctic cold, and the most austere terrains. The CF34-10 averages 16,000 cycles to its first overhaul, which means this engine will see no off-wing scheduled maintenance on the B-52 until after the year 2097.
The Passport engine evolved from GE’s most advanced commercial engines and technologies that perform with 99.96 percent dispatch reliability. It is designed for endurance and recently powered the longest non-stop business jet flight in history—8,152 nautical miles. The Passport offers the lowest fuel burn of any engine in its thrust class, 30 percent better than the B-52’s current TF33 engine.
The CF34-10 and the Passport are the most proven offerings to re-engine the B-52 and offer the highest mission readiness to the Air Force.
Finally, GE offers the lowest cost of operation to the Air Force. Maturing engines less proven than the CF34-10 and Passport will take more time and cost more money. No other engine offering comes close to the CF34-10’s reliability and sustainment capability. Its design architecture and technology have been proven over 31 million flight hours. Its established fleet size of more than 1,300 engines and robust supply chain guarantee cost effective spare parts and services for decades to come. The Passport’s top-in-class fuel efficiency leads to considerable fuel cost savings. Its advanced technologies, such as additive manufacturing, have already been proven out in other commercial engine programs. Its advanced, high-performance core is similar to the CFM LEAP engine which has more than 4 million flight hours since entering service in 2016.
Choosing an engine less proven than the CF34-10 or Passport would mean the Air Force would incur the cost of maturing those engines, in terms of time and money. The reliability, sustainability and low life-cycle costs of GE’s CF34-10 and Passport engines means the Air Force can reallocate resources elsewhere, making them more flexible to broader mission demands.
The B-52 re-engining program is all about sustainability—the Air Force needs to sustain this legendary bomber past 2050 with minimal risk and cost. They also need the most reliable engines possible to maintain the highest levels of readiness. GE’s experience re-engining Air Force aircraft three times before—something no other engine manufacture can claim—and our experience powering six jet bombers over the past 70 years makes us the lowest program risk. We’ve proven we know how to re-engine aircraft and will successfully complete this on time and on cost. GE’s CF34-10 and Passport engines also offer the highest mission readiness. Their dispatch reliability is second to none, and their reliability has been proven in the harshest environments. Finally, GE’s engines offer the lowest cost of operation. Being the most reliable and proven engines, the CF34-10 and Passport have the lowest life-cycle costs, saving the Air Force time and money. Compared to the other engine offerings, GE’s CF34-10 and Passport engines stand out as the clear best choice for the Air Force. To learn more, visit www.B-52andGE.com.