Upgraded B-52 strategic bombers receive new designation

U.S. Air Force photo

B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers undergoing the Commercial Engine Replacement Program (CERP) are to receive a new designation. 

“Any B-52H aircraft modified with the new commercial engines and associated subsystems are designated as B-52J,” the Air Force said in justification documents for its 2024 budget request, as seen by Air & Space Forces Magazine. 

The USAF currently operates 58 B-52H bombers in its fleet, assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing, the 2nd Bomb Wing and the Air Force Reserve 307th Bomb Wing. The USAF expects to operate B-52s through 2050. In order to achieve this, the USAF launched the CERP program. 

The Rolls-Royce F130 engine was chosen to replace the Pratt & Whitney JT3D (also known as the TF33) currently powering the B-52H. These engines are based on the Rolls-Royce BR family of commercial engines for regional and corporate jets. The testing of two F130 engines running in a B-52 dual-pod started in March 2023. 

Along with the engine change, Honeywell will provide a new auxiliary power unit (APU), forgoing the need for explosive gunpowder cartridges to quick-start the engines. L3Harris will upgrade the electronic warfare and radar system of the aircraft. A Raytheon AN/APG-79 active, electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar system will also be installed. 

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