Tweaking Tanker Turbines

The Air Force will upgrade the first 60 engines for the KC-135R tanker fleet with fuel-saving features next year, announced Air Mobility Command officials. Under the CFM propulsion upgrade program, the Air Force will have the KC-135’s CFM56-2 (F108) engines rebuilt with improved high-pressure turbine nozzles, compressor and turbine blades, and an upgraded shroud assembly, according to an Aug. 8 AMC release. “With these improvements, we expect the engine to stay on the wing for 20-plus years,” said Steven Walsh, KC-135 logistics management specialist at Tinker AFB, Okla. The rework will bring down current fuel costs by an estimated 1.5 percent as well as cutting maintenance outlays, states the release. “We fully realize even a nominal gain in efficiency can offer a much larger return on investment in the long run,” added AMC Commander Gen. Raymond Johns. Beginning in 2014, the Air Force plans to upgrade 120 engines a year, eventually reworking 1,440 engines. (Scott report by Maj. Keith Bland)