To call the Boeing B-52 iconic would be something of an understatement. The last B-52H rolled off the lines in 1962. Fifty-three years later, the Air Force still operates a fleet of 74 of the behemoths, and is tentatively scheduled to retire them around 2040, almost 80 years after the last delivery.
Foxtrot Alpha takes a look at a proposal that has again risen, one that would seem to be a no-brainer- replacing the ancient TF33 engines with a modern turbo fan.
The USAF is kicking around ‘creative concepts’ under which it could re-engine its fleet of 74 ever evolving B-52H Stratofortresses. With the bombers remaining in front-line service until at least 2040, and considering that flying with eight 1960s vintage TF33 engines is far from fuel efficient (burning 3k gallons an hour), re-engined B-52s should make great financial sense.
It’s been looked at before, and the old MAACO issue came up. Pay me now, or pay me later. And the Air Force chose poorly to pay later. What should have been a fairly easy choice in the days of Reagan defense spending was deferred for other priorities. Of course, back then, the Air Force thought the B-2 would replace the B-52, not just complement it.
The usual suggestions for the replacement engine show up in the article. One engine not mentioned that was a tad surprising is a somewhat less modern engine, the JT8D-219.
The basic JT8D, most familiar to folks as the powerplant of the DC-9, is itself a low-bypass turbofan adaptation of the J52 turbojet that powered the A-6 Intruder and EA-6B Prowler, and later marks of the A-4 Skyhawk.
The –219 uses an increased bypass ration fan to increase thrust, decrease specific fuel consumption, and as an added bonus, lower the noise footprint.
The –219 was specifically designed to replace the JT3D series of engines on 707 based airframes. And of course, the JT3D is the civilian designation of the TF33 powering the B-52. The –219 has already been selected to replace the engines on the Air Force’s fleet of 16 E-8 JSTARS radar surveillance planes, though the funding fell through.
You’re probably also somewhat familiar with the Air Force’s Boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona. Where the retired airplanes of the services are (almost literally) put out to pasture. Many are used as sources of spare parts, and others merely awaiting recycling into beer cans.
What you may not realize is that it is fairly common to pull aircraft out of there and put them back into service. The term of art used is “regeneration.” While some aircraft types are regenerated fairly often, others, not so much.
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) – History was made in Tucson at the world famous “Boneyard.” Perhaps you were lucky enough to see the B-52 Stratofortress fly over the Old Pueblo on Friday.
For the first time, the Air Force regenerated a B-52 from the Boneyard, which is technically called the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (309 AMARG). AMARG is a one-of-a-kind specialized facility within the Air Force Materiel Command structure.
One of the things that makes this interesting is that the B-52 fleet falls under the auspices of START II nuclear forces treaty. All earlier marks of B-52 were very visibly chopped up (with the exception of a few museum pieces).
No mention was made of why a BUFF had to be regenerated. Which, to me raises the question, which one already in the fleet needs to be retired, and why? Hmmm.