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Air Force to Equip B-52 With New Radar, Engines

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The U.S. Air Force plans to upgrade the Boeing-built B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber with a Raytheon Technologies-developed radar and a new engine from Rolls-Royce to keep the aircraft operational through 2050, Breaking Defense reported Friday.

Col. Louis Ruscetta, senior materiel leader of the Air Force’s B-52 division, said the service was working to determine possible “friction areas” to ensure that changes in one of the two major upgrades don’t have an unintentional effect across the bomber fleet.

There’s a lot that can go wrong on the program management side,” he said. “We have to try to manage and reduce what can go wrong.”

The Air Force will integrate the Raytheon-made AN/APG-79 radar into B-52 and Ruscetta said the new capability will provide the aircraft with improved situational awareness to identify and counter targets.

He said flight testing is set to begin in late 2025 and the service intends to achieve initial operating capability status for the radar upgrade in 2027.

In September 2021, Rolls-Royce won a potential $2.6 billion contract to provide replacement engines – F130 – for the bombers. 

Ruscetta said the Air Force conducted a preliminary design review of engine subsystem in July and plans to hold a full system preliminary design assessment later in 2022.

The military branch expects to equip the first B-52 bombers with new engines between 2026 and 2027 and reach IOC status for the engine replacement program in 2030.