continuation of the above article:
The Air Force hopes whatever new engines it might buy won’t have a need for serious maintenance that requires ground crews to remove them from the aircraft entirely for at least 6,000 flight hours at a time on average, and up to 8,000 flight hours if possible. When the engines do come off, the service wants maintainers to be able to swap them out in four hours or less.
The biggest question that remains is how long it might take for the Air Force to get the re-engine program up and running. In its industry day briefings, the service said that there was a team already in place to manage the project and initial funds in the defense budget for the 2018 fiscal year that President Donald Trump
Unfortunately, Congress has yet to
Two of these involve reviews of separate formal proposals for the necessary aircraft modifications and the engines themselves that are either simultaneous or split into a two-step process. The other option would be to let the contractor integrating the new engines on the B-52s pick the powerplants it deems best suited for the upgrade.
In its industry day presentation, the Air Force offered a detailed timeline of how the process might work under the two-phase plan. If it could get things moving in the 2018 fiscal year, the initial low-rate conversion process wouldn’t begin until 2025 and full-rate work would run through at least 2034.
This means the bulk of the B-52s could continue flying with their older engines for another decade at least. Each one of the existing TF33 turbofans, which have been out of production for decades, need a complete depot overhaul every 6,000 flight hours. This process costs the Air Force approximately $2 million every time.
A public-private deal could get around this by offering to pay contractors primarily out of the cost savings from the new, more fuel efficient engines, potentially making the re-engine effort cost-neutral for the Air Force. If the suppliers can achieve the goal of a 40 increase in efficiency, this type of arrangement could be even more attractive. Agreeing to start work without a firm understanding off the ultimate benefits could still require a leap of faith for any vendors involved in the final project, though.
As noted, the Air Force will have to decide how it wants to proceed soon if it plans to get new engines onto the B-52s any time soon. In the meantime, the aircraft will continue to fly combat missions with the same engines they had when they entered service in the early 1960s.