It’s worth taking a look at the three re-engining programs GE has completed with iconic Air Force aircraft.
J57/TF33 to F108: A force multiplier for refueling
In the 1980s, the F108 high-bypass turbofan (known as the CFM56-2* in commercial service) was selected to replace the KC-135’s existing TF33 propulsion, the same engine to be replaced during the B-52 commercial engine replacement program. The F108 enabled two tankers to do the work of three. With 25 percent better fuel efficiency and the ability to offload 50 percent more fuel, the re-designated KC-135R has proven to be a re-engining success story and force multiplier over the past four decades.
U-2S DRAGON LADY
J75 to F118: Elevating reconnaissance to new heights
When the Air Force identified a need to re-engine its U-2R (a larger variant of the original U-2) in the late 1980s, GE offered its F118 engine, which had recently been qualified for the iconic B-2 bomber. Chosen to power the re-designated U-2S, the F118 provided both higher thrust and lower fuel burn, increasing payload and aircraft range by more than 1,200 miles, along with a decreased time to climb. Much like the F108 on the KC-135R, the re-engined U-2S served as a force multiplier for the Air Force fleet.
C-5M SUPER GALAXY
TF39 to F138: Redefining global mobility
The Air Force launched two C-5 modernization efforts, with GE’s F138 (the CF6-80C2 turbofan’s military designation) as the selection to power the newly designated C-5M Super Galaxy. The F138 delivered—offering an estimated $20 billion reduction in operating cost, access to twice as many airfields, and a 27 percent increase in unrefueled range, which avoided in-air refueling on many missions.
Looking for more information on these re-engining efforts? Read the full B-52 re-engining white paper here.
*CFM International is a 50/50 joint company between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines.