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Boeing Uses Fortnite Technology to Upgrade B-52 Bombers

Boeing is turning to the popular computer graphics game engine, Unreal Engine 5, developed by Epic Games, to upgrade its iconic B-52 Stratofortress bombers to the B-52J standard. The software, famous for powering the game Fortnite, allows pilots and maintainers to virtually interact with a digital representation of the B-52J. This enables them to perform tasks such as start-up and shut-down procedures for the new Rolls-Royce F130 engines.

By utilizing this virtual environment generated by the commercial graphics engine, Boeing can make modifications, tune configurations, and receive feedback before implementing upgrades on the actual aircraft. This approach significantly reduces costs and delivery time, according to Jennifer Wong, Boeing's senior director for bombers.

Unreal Engine has been utilized in the gaming industry as well as for powering graphics in events like NASCAR broadcasts. Now, it is being used to support the Commercial Engine Replacement Program, which aims to replace the TF-33 engines on the B-52H fleet. Rolls-Royce's F130 engine, already in use by the Gulfstream G650 business jet, was selected as the winning offer. These new engines will enhance fuel efficiency and range, reduce emissions, and lower maintenance costs for the B-52s.

In addition to the engine upgrades, the B-52J will also receive avionics enhancements. These include a modified variant of the F/A-18EF Super Hornet's APG-79 AESA radar, a streamlined profile with the removal of blisters housing the AN/ASQ-151 Electro-Optical Viewing System (EVS), and potential classified equipment humps for wideband satellite communications. The cockpit will also undergo upgrades, featuring new digital displays, a hybrid throttle system, and modified system panels.

The ground and flight tests for the new engines are scheduled to begin between 2024 and 2026, with the first re-engined B-52s expected to be delivered in 2026-2027 and achieving initial operational capability in 2030.

This innovative collaboration between Boeing and Epic Games demonstrates the use of advanced technology to improve the capabilities of the legendary B-52 bomber, extending its lifespan and enhancing its performance in the years to come.

Sources:
– Defense One: [link] – The Aviationist: [link]