Sen. Hoeven discusses bomber upgrades in Minot

Jill Schramm/MDN Sen. John Hoeven, center, speaks about a Rolls Royce contract to replace B-52 engines at a news conference in Minot City Hall Saturday. At left is Mayor Shaun Sipma and at right is council member Mark Jantzer with Minot’s military retention committee, Task Force 21.

A U.S. Air Force workhorse, the B-52 bomber, will be getting new Rolls Royce engines with the award of a $2.6 billion contract.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-ND, a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, said Saturday in Minot that manufacturing now can start on what is expected to be 608 new engines under a contract with Rolls Royce that is renewable through 2038, a 17-year commitment. The engines will be made in Indianapolis. The engines are part of a larger upgrade that will keep the B-52s flying through the year 2050.

“It’s going to be audibly different,” said Minot Mayor Shaun Sipma, who noted the high-pitched engine whistle of a B-52 fiying overhead will be changing for Minot-area residents,

The engine program is part of $512 million in federally authorized improvements to the B-52 in 2021. Radar, communications systems and a weapons system are among additional improvements that will be coming. First steps in nuclear modernization also have been approved this fiscal year, related to replacing the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, maintaining the missiles and replacing helicopters.

“We need to make sure that our men and women in uniform have the best, and that’s what this is all about,” said Hoeven, who also spoke about the need to maintain a strong defense. “We need to continue to upgrade and invest in maintaining the nuclear triad, not just Minot Air Force Base.”

Minot’s military retention committee, Task Force 21, just returned from sponsoring a Washington, D.C., symposium.

“The message was that we need a strong defense in this nation,” said Mark Jantzer, chairman of the task force, in citing threats from China and Russia. “While we have been fighting the war on terror, they have been trying to figure out how to catch up with us and better us.”

Hoeven said the first eight MH-139 Grey Wolf helicopters to replace the Vietnam-era Hueys are included in the 2021 fiscal year appropriation. Hoeven said there has been a delay with Federal Aviation Administration certification of the helicopters, but the ground-breaking for a new helicopter hangar at Minot AFB is on track for this fall or next spring.

Minot AFB utilizes helicopters in the missile field.


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