US Air Force will redesignate upgraded bombers as B-52J

Veteran “Stratofortress” aircraft is undergoing the biggest upgrade program in its history, thanks to the incorporation of Rolls Royce F130 engines and a new AESA radar

The US Air Force (USAF) will redesignate the Boeing Stratorfortress bombers as the B-52J following the upgrade that will swap their Pratt & Whitney TF-33 engines for the F130s supplied by Rolls Royce.

The designation was confirmed by fiscal 2024 budget documents, according to Air and Space Forces Magazine.

Until then, there was an understanding that the USAF would rename the “Buff”, as the bomber is known, as B-52J after the installation of Raytheon’s AESA AN/APG-79 radar, in addition to new navigation and communication systems.

Boeing B-52J (Boeing)

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With the replacement of the eight engines, the veteran Boeing jet would have a new name – B-52K -, but the proposal ended up being rejected.

“Any B-52H aircraft modified with the new commercial engines and associated subsystems are designated as B-52J,” explained the USAF in the 2024 budget.

B-52’s new F130 engines (RR)

Operational by 2030

The US Air Force is undertaking the biggest technology upgrade to the B-52 in its 61 years in service. The aircraft, which has been operational since 1955, had the last example delivered 60 years ago and since then has undergone several improvements, but to a small extent.

Despite its advanced age, the B-52 remains a very capable platform, but it ran into the old TF-33 engines, which consumed a lot of fuel. The solution was to look for a civilian turbofan that could be adapted to the Boeing pylons.

B-52H bombers (USAF)

Rolls Royce was the winner of the program and is already testing the military version of the BR725 on the ground, an engine that equips executive jets.

The first batch of B-52Js are expected to be delivered between 2026 and 2027 and undergo extensive testing before being declared operational around 2030.


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