The veteran B-52 strategic bomber may receive a new designation after undergoing an engine and avionics upgrade contracted by the US Air Force (USAF).
According to Air Force Magazine, the Boeing aircraft could be renamed the B-52J or B-52K after receiving Rolls-Royce F130 turbofans and the new APG-79B4 radar.
The USAF currently operates the B-52H, the latest variant of the Stratofortress, but which was introduced in 1961 after the J57 turbojet was replaced by the TF-33 turbofan.
According to the World Air Forces 2022 yearbook, there are 76 active B-52 bombers in the Air Force and it is believed that most of them will go through the upgrade process.
In September 2021, the USAF selected Rolls-Royce to supply 608 BR725 turbofans, the same used by Gulfstream and Bombardier business jets, which were renamed the F130.
The first converted B-52s are expected to fly in 2025, with the first batch of aircraft completed in 2028. The program is expected to be completed by 2035.
Program leader Colonel Louis Ruscetta said the Air Force is still in doubt whether to rename the first B-52s to receive the APG-79B4 radar as B-52J and then B-52K when they are fitted with the new Rolls-Royce engines.
The new radar is the same used by the Navy’s F/A-18 fighters and is of the AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) type.
The B-52 is due to complete a century of continuous operation in the USAF, alongside the B-21 Raider, a new stealth bomber under development by Northrop Grumman.