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How the Air Force plans on keeping the B-52 dropping warheads on foreheads for 100 years
Sixty-seven years after the U.S. Air Force received its last B-52 from Boeing, the flying branch finally has firmed up plans to fit the heavy bomber with new engines.
Air Force magazine in its January 2019 issue took a deep dive into the re-engining effort.
"If Air Force plans hold up, the B-52 will be approaching nearly a century of service by 2050," reporter John Tirpak wrote. "To keep the airplane flying, the service plans to equip each B-52 with new engines, which are expected to be so much more maintainer-friendly and efficient that they'll pay for themselves in just 10 years."
In addition to new motors, the 76 B-52s in Air Force service also could get upgraded avionics, defensive gear, sensors and ejection seats, War Zone reporter Joe Trevithick revealed. The re-engined, enhanced bombers could receive the new designation B-52J.
In 2018, the Air Force announced it would retire its 62 1980s-vintage B-1Bs bombers and 20 newer B-2 stealth bombers no later than the 2040s, while the updated B-52s would continue to operate alongside at least 100 new B-21 stealth bombers.
"Despite their age, the B-52s have high mission-capable rates, can carry a huge diversity of weapons, and can perform effectively—as long as the enemy lacks elaborate air defenses," Tirpak wrote. "Even in a higher-end fight, the B-52 can still launch missiles from well outside enemy air defenses. It is the only U.S. bomber that can launch nuclear cruise missiles, and it will be the initial platform for the new Long-Range Stand-Off missile."
It took two decades of debate for the B-52 upgrade plan to reach this point. Since 1996 the Air Force has conducted no fewer than 13 studies examining options for new motors for the 240-ton bomber. As of early 2019 the B-52H still flies with the same Pratt & Whitney-made TF-33 engines that have powered the type since 1962.
A 2018 Air Force briefing cited the TF-33's "inefficient and limited capability relative to modern commercially-available engines." The Pratt & Whitney motors are "costly and manpower-intensive to maintain [while] facing obsolescence of parts."
"Modern engines are so much more reliable than the TF-33s that were once installed, the new engines will probably never have to be removed," Tirpak wrote. "The meantime between overhauls for that class of engines is typically around 30,000 hours—greater than the number of hours the service plans to fly the bombers for the rest of their service lives."
The goal in replacing the engines is to improve the B-52's fuel-efficiency by at least 20 percent while maintaining its ceiling and take-off performance. A B-52H with TF-33 engines can carry 35 tons of bombs and missiles as far as 4,500 miles without aerial refueling at a top speed of 650 miles per hour.
"Despite rumors to the contrary, Isabelle said the Air Force is not looking for substantially better physical performance from the new engines—for example, in time-to-climb or top speed—although that may turn out to be a welcome by-product," Tirpak explained.
The Air Force in 2018 estimated the cost of B-52 service-life extension—including the re-engining other capability improvements—at around $32 billion, according to Tirpak.
Between 2011 and 2016 it cost the Air Force around $1.2 billion annually to operate 76 B-52s, the Government Accountability Office reported in 2018.
More efficient engines could save $10 billion in fuel and maintenance costs through the 2040s, Tirpak reported, citing Air Force documents. The service wants 608 engines -- eight for each B-52.
The Air Force has not yet found all the money for the B-52 upgrade program. "We are working through our leadership to develop a strategy on how to approach the acquisition," James Hunsicker, the service's deputy chief of bomber requirements, told Tirpak.
The Air Force tapped Boeing to integrate the new motors. Pratt & Whitney, General Electric and Rolls-Royce all have proposed engine types for the B-52 effort. The Air Force in 2017 stated it would test new engines on two B-52s as early as 2022, select a contractor before 2026 and complete the re-engining project before 2034.
This article originally appeared on The National Interest.
More from The National Interest:
- The F-35's Real Enemy: Introducing the Air Force's New Boeing F-15X
- This Is the Lethal Tank That Would Wage War Against North Korea
- Here's What It Was Like to Fly in an Su-22 Fighter-Bomber
WATCH NEXT: The B-52 Brings The Fight To ISIS
Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher will retire as a chief petty officer now that President Donald Trump has restored his rank.
"Before the prosecution of Special Warfare Operator First Class Edward Gallagher, he had been selected for promotion to Senior Chief, awarded a Bronze Star with a "V" for valor, and assigned to an important position in the Navy as an instructor," a White House statement said.
"Though ultimately acquitted on all of the most serious charges, he was stripped of these honors as he awaited his trial and its outcome. Given his service to our Nation, a promotion back to the rank and pay grade of Chief Petty Officer is justified."
The announcement that Gallagher is once again an E-7 effectively nullifies the Navy's entire effort to prosecute Gallagher for allegedly committing war crimes. It is also the culmination of Trump's support for the SEAL throughout the legal process.
On July 2, military jurors found Gallagher not guilty of premeditated murder and attempted murder for allegedly stabbing a wounded ISIS fighter to death and opening fire at an old man and a young girl on separate occasions during his 2017 deployment to Iraq.
Trump orders dismissal of murder charge against former Green Beret accused of killing a suspected Taliban bomb maker
President Donald Trump has ended the decade-long saga of Maj. Matthew Golsteyn by ordering a murder charge against the former Green Beret dismissed with a full pardon.
The Army charged Golsteyn with murder in December 2018 after he repeatedly acknowledged that he killed an unarmed Afghan man in 2010. Golsteyn's charge sheet identifies the man as "Rasoul."
President Donald Trump has signed a full pardon for former 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, who had been convicted of murder for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men, two of whom were killed.
Lorance will now be released from the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he had been serving a 19-year sentence.
"He has served more than six years of a 19-year sentence he received. Many Americans have sought executive clemency for Lorance, including 124,000 people who have signed a petition to the White House, as well as several members of Congress," said a White House statement released Friday.
"The President, as Commander-in-Chief, is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the law is enforced and when appropriate, that mercy is granted. For more than two hundred years, presidents have used their authority to offer second chances to deserving individuals, including those in uniform who have served our country. These actions are in keeping with this long history. As the President has stated, 'when our soldiers have to fight for our country, I want to give them the confidence to fight.'"
Additionally, Trump pardoned Maj. Matthew Golsteyn, who was to go on trial for murder charges next year, and restored the rank of Navy SEAL Chief Edward Gallagher, who was found not guilty of murdering a wounded ISIS prisoner but convicted of taking an unauthorized photo with the corpse.
Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth first announced on Nov. 4 that the president was expected to intervene in the Lorance case was well as exonerate Army Maj. Matthew Golsteyn, who has been charged with murder after he admitted to killing an unarmed Afghan man whom he believed was a Taliban bomb maker, and restore Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher's rank to E-7.
For the past week, members of Lorance's family and his legal team have been holding a constant vigil in Kansas anticipating his release, said Lorance's attorney Don Brown.
Now that he has been exonerated of committing a war crime, Lorance wants to return to active duty, Brown told Task & Purpose on Wednesday.
"He loves the Army," Brown said prior to the president's announcement. "He doesn't have any animosity. He's hoping that his case – and even his time at Leavenworth – can be used for good to deal with some issues regarding rules of engagement on a permanent basis so that our warfighters are better protected, so that we have stronger presumptions favoring warfighters and they aren't treated like criminals on the South Side of Chicago."
In the Starz documentary "Leavenworth," Lorance's platoon members discuss the series of events that took place on July 2, 2012, when the two Afghan men were killed during a patrol in Kandahar province.They claim that Lorance ordered one of his soldiers to fire at three Afghan men riding a motorcycle. The three men got off their motorcycle and started walking toward Afghan troops, who ordered them to return to their motorcycle.
At that point, Lorance ordered the turret gunner on a nearby Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle to shoot the three men, according to the documentary. That order was initially ignored, but the turret gunner eventually opened fire with his M-240, killing two of the men.
But Lorance told the documentary makers that his former soldiers' account of what happened was "ill-informed."
"From my experience of what actually went down, when my guy fired at it, and it kept coming, that signified hostile intent, because he didn't stop immediately," Lorance said in the documentary's second episode.
Brown argues that not only is Lorance innocent of murder, he should never have been prosecuted in the first case.
"He made a call and when you look at the evidence itself, the call was made within a matter of seconds," Brown said "He would make that call again."
The new Call of Duty Modern Warfare takes gaming to a new level. In fact, it's the best damn video game of 2019 (in my humble opinion).
You can watch video of the awesome gameplay for CoD above, and make sure to follow the Task & Purpose team on Twitch here.
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