Fortnite’s Game Engine Is Helping Boeing Upgrading The B-52

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Boeing is using the Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 5, which powers the popular video game Fortnite, to upgrade its B-52 Stratofortress bombers. The engine is being used to create a virtual 3D environment that allows pilots and maintainers to interact with a digital representation of the B-52J and perform tasks such as starting up and shutting down the engines. This virtual scenario allows Boeing to make modifications and receive feedback before implementing upgrades, reducing costs and delivery time. The B-52s will also receive new Rolls-Royce F130 engines, avionics upgrades, and are expected to be delivered in 2026-2027.

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Fortnite B-52
A B-52H with the Unreal 5 Engine and Fortnite Logos (The Aviationist using U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Quail)

Boeing relies on Fortnite technology to upgrade the B-52.

Boeing is utilizing the Unreal Engine 5, a popular 3D computer graphics game engine developed by Epic Games, to upgrade the iconic B-52 Stratofortress bombers to the B-52J standard. This software, known for powering the famous game Fortnite, creates a 3D environment that allows pilots and maintainers to virtually interact with a digital representation of the B-52J. They are able to perform tasks such as start up and shut down procedures for the new Rolls-Royce F130 engines. The use of this virtual simulation allows for modifications, configurations, and feedback to be gathered before implementing the upgrades on the actual aircraft, resulting in reduced cost and delivery time.

Did you know? The Unreal Engine, developed by Epic Games, has been widely used in the gaming industry for creating engaging and immersive gaming experiences. Its application in the aerospace industry demonstrates the versatility and adaptability of this software.

According to Jennifer Wong, Boeing’s senior director for bomber, utilizing virtual models allows for faster learning and quicker adjustments compared to traditional methods. This approach enables Boeing to make necessary modifications and improvements before any physical changes are made to the aircraft.

Fun Fact: The B-52H fleet has been utilizing the TF-33 engines since the 1960s. The new F130 engines, developed by Rolls-Royce, are a military version of the BR725 engine, which is also used in the Gulfstream G650 business jet. These engines will not only increase fuel efficiency and range but also reduce emissions and maintenance costs.

As part of the upgrade, the B-52J will also receive avionics upgrades, including a modified version of the F/A-18EF Super Hornet’s APG-79 AESA radar, streamlined profile with the removal of blisters housing the AN/ASQ-151 Electro-Optical Viewing System, and additional humps for potential classified equipment related to wideband satellite communications systems. The cockpit will also undergo upgrades, featuring new digital displays, a hybrid mechanical-to-digital throttle system, and other system enhancements.

By incorporating cutting-edge technology and making these upgrades, Boeing aims to extend the lifespan of the B-52 bombers until at least 2050. The initial operational capability is expected in 2030, with the first delivery of re-engined B-52Js planned for the 2026-2027 timeframe.

Fun Fact: The B-52 Stratofortress, commonly known as the “BUFF” (Big Ugly Fat Fellow), is a long-range strategic bomber that has been in service with the United States Air Force since the 1950s. It holds the record for the longest continuous operational service of any military aircraft.

David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.

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