Getting More BUFF

A perennial B-52 upgrade idea—re-engining—is being considered again, Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, said Thursday. Speaking at Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event in Arlington, Va., Wilson said plans call for the B-52 to remain in service until 2040 “and possibly beyond.” Wilson told Air Force Magazine that he’s been talking to engine contractors, who say a commercial motor for the B-52 “could save us 25-30 percent on fuel,” but an even bigger payback could come from ripple effects in logistics and operations. Some new engines can “stay on-wing for 20 years” producing large savings on depot maintenance, and greater fuel efficiency translates to greater range, reducing the need for tankers, he said. An engine replacement might pay for itself by “the mid-’30s” but make even more sense because Wilson thinks the B-52 will serve longer than that. “We’re flying them less,” and racking up hours more slowly, he said. There’s no money in the coming budget for new engines, but Wilson said he’s exploring whether Congress would be willing to allow the Air Force to use some money earmarked for energy-saving upgrades at installations for the project. Right now, the money can’t be used for aircraft modifications.