Vietnam and the USA: historic F-16 military partnership in sight25 September 2023
China sanctions Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin for arms sales to Taiwan25 September 2023
Boeing is using 3D graphics engine technology from Epic Games, best known for its use in the game Fortnite, to modernize its iconic B-52 bomber. This innovative partnership could revolutionize the way military aircraft are updated and maintained.
The unlikely alliance between video games and military aeronautics
Primarily used in video games, Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 5 is now being used by Boeing to upgrade its Stratofortress bombers to the B-52J standard. This engine creates a 3D environment where pilots and maintenance technicians can interact virtually with a digital representation of the B-52J. For example, they can perform start-up and shut-down procedures for the new Rolls-Royce F130 engines.
The use of this cutting-edge commercial technology enables Boeing to test modifications, adjust configurations and gather feedback even before improvements are made to aircraft frameworks. This significantly reduces costs and delivery times.
More than just a game: a wide range of applications
Unreal Engine is not only used in the video game industry. It has been used to enhance the visual experience of NASCAR broadcasting and other sporting events. Today, it is used in the commercial engine replacement program initiated in 2018, aimed at replacing the B-52H TF-33 engines used since the 1960s. The new Rolls-Royce F130 engines, which are military versions of the BR725 engine used by the Gulfstream G650 business jet, will be in service until at least 2050. These engines will improve the B-52’s fuel efficiency and range, while significantly reducing maintenance costs.
Technical developments and strategic implications
The new improvements are not limited to the engine. The B-52J will also benefit from a series of avionics upgrades. It will be equipped with a modified variant of the F/A-18EF Super Hornet‘s APG-79 AESA radar, and will benefit from an updated cockpit with new 8 x 10 digital displays, among other improvements.
These technical advances have major implications for the B-52’s service life and operational capabilities, particularly in terms of range and fuel efficiency. The introduction of these new technologies could also have an impact on the way future military aircraft are designed, tested and maintained, making the process more efficient and less costly.
Future challenges and horizons
Ground and flight testing of the new engines is scheduled to start on time between 2024 and 2026. Delivery of the first batch of retrofitted B-52Js is scheduled for 2026-2027, with initial operational capability expected in 2030.
However, this ambitious timetable may pose logistical and coordination challenges, especially as the B-52 is a decades-old aircraft that needs to be adapted to modern standards.
Boeing’s use of the Unreal Engine 5 to modernize the B-52 is a striking example of how technologies from the video game industry can be applied in fields as serious and complex as military aeronautics. Not only is this a game-changer in terms of cost and efficiency, it also paves the way for future innovations in the way military aircraft are developed and maintained. This initiative is not only a triumph for Boeing and Epic Games, but could also serve as a model for future projects in the aerospace industry and beyond.
Fly a jet fighter is the fighter jet experience specialist.