As it nears completion of a $600 million upgrade to its Indianapolis facilities, Rolls-Royce said it hopes to land a substantial U.S. Air Force contract that would boost local employment by more than 150 jobs.
Rolls-Royce announced Monday that it intends to bid on the Air Force’s B-52 bomber re-engining program, which would put new engines on the 76-aircraft fleet and extend the fleet’s life until 2050. It estimated the contract could be worth more than a billion dollars in new business.
Rolls-Royce says it expects the B-52 program to include 650 new engines. Each B-52 is outfitted with eight engines.
The B-52 project represents one of the largest contracts that Rolls-Royce’s Indianapolis operation has ever pursued, company officials said.
“This program is huge,” said Tom Bell, Rolls Royce’s president of defense.
The Air Force has not yet issued a request for proposals, but is expected to do so this year, said John Kusnirek, vice president of military strategic systems at Rolls-Royce.
Kusnirek said Rolls-Royce expects to learn next year whether it has won the contract.
If Rolls-Royce wins the bid, it plans to add a new production line and hire more than 150 production and engineering employees. Engine production would take place in the 2020s and 2030s, and the plant would shift its focus to maintaining those engines afterward, Kusnirek said.
Rolls Royce made the formal announcement Monday afternoon at its Tibbs Avenue facility, which is part of a $600 million upgrade plan the company launched in 2016. The investment includes two separate projects: $400 million to modernize facilities and machinery at the Tibbs Avenue and Raymond Street facilities and another $200 in technology research.
The company said bidding on the Air Force project would not have been a possibility without the modernization project.
Indianapolis is Rolls-Royce’s largest U.S. engineering, design and manufacturing site, employing about 4,000 employees. In addition to the Tibbs and Raymond facilities, the company has its Meridian Center office complex on the south side of downtown and eight other central Indiana facilities.
Rolls-Royce says it plans to pitch its F130 engine for the B-52 program. The F130 already powers the Air Force’s E-11A and C-37 aircraft.
The B-52 fleet currently uses Pratt & Whitney engines. According to several news accounts, including a Popular Mechanics story from September, Pratt & Whitney and GE Aviation also plan to bid on the B-52 project.