Key point: The Pentagon may end up flying the B-52 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.”