Rolls-Royce recently secured an incremental order from United Airlines to provide additional Trent XWB engines and service support. This followed the airline’s recent announcement that it will update and expand the number of long-range, twin-engine wide-body Airbus A350 aircraft on order from 35 A350-1000 to 45 A350-900.
To maintain competitiveness with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and 777-300ER, Airbus worked with Rolls-Royce for over a decade to develop the Trent XWB, a variant of the Trent 1000. The new engine features a two-stage intermediate pressure turbine instead of a single stage like previous Trent engines.
The latest and most powerful model, the Trent XWP-97, which powers the Airbus A350, recently received formal flight certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and will enter service in late 2017. (This certification came within a week of EASA certification of the Trent 1000 TEN engine, which will power all variants of the 787, also to enter service later this year.)
The Trent XWP-97 produces up to 97,000 lb at takeoff. Rolls-Royce achieved the increase in thrust through a combination of new high-temperature turbine technology, a larger engine core, and advanced fan aerodynamics.
With over 1600 Trent XWP engines ordered by 40 customers worldwide, Rolls-Royce is currently experiencing a manufacturing backlog of more than 1500 engines, or over 6 years of production from its U.K. and Germany facilities.
But the backlog of Trent XWP orders aren’t hampering momentum, as the company aims to corner military sales as well. Rolls-Royce additionally laid out an offering of the BR725 powerplant, designated F130 for military purposes, to the U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress fleet.
Rolls-Royce expects an imminent announcement from the USAF for a new request for information for a re-engining of the B-52’s Pratt & Whitney TF33-P3 engines. From as early as 1982, the USAF has considered re-engining B-52s to improve range, fuel burn, and reduce the smokiness of the original powerplants, although the company acknowledged that there is—as of yet—no stated program for such a project.
The F130 would incorporate lessons learned from the 700 series of Rolls-Royce engines as well as the Trent-series commercial powerplant. F130-series engines are already in USAF service aboard the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk, the Bombardier E-11A BACN, and has been chosen to power the new Compass Call aircraft, the Gulfstream G650. Rolls-Royce estimates it would take approximately 650 engines in total to equip a fleet of 72-75 B-52s, accounting for one F130 engine replacing every two TF33-P3 engines.
Although the Rolls-Royce would plan to integrate as an “integrator” as well as engine provider, the change from an eight engine layout to four could create airframe issues the USAF may not want to manage, such as ground clearance from a single, larger fan, weapon recertification, and maintenance issues.