The US Department of the Air Force has chosen manufacturer JetZero to develop a blended wing body (BWB) prototype which will one day serve as a fuel-saving military transport aircraft.
The project not only aims to mature BWB technology and demonstrate its capabilities for the US Air Force, as the design will also give the commercial industry more options for future air platforms.
The Air Force Operational Energy Office expects completion of initial flight testing as early as 2027.
“Blended wing body aircraft have the potential to significantly reduce fuel demand and increase global reach,” said Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall.
“Moving forces and cargo quickly, efficiently, and over long distance is a critical capability to enable national security strategy.”
JetZero was founded by pioneers who invented the original BWB. Since its founding the team has grown to include aerospace engineers from across the sector and advisors from the industry-leading manufacturers and airlines.
The BWB design differs from a traditional tube-and-wing aircraft, with the aircraft body blended into its high-aspect-ratio wing, decreasing aerodynamic drag by at least 30% and providing additional lift.
This increased efficiency will enable extended range and increased payload options.
Several military transport configurations are possible with the BWB. All of which could result in significant fuel savings for the USAF, since these aircraft types account for approximately 60% of the Air Force’s total annual jet fuel consumption.
The Department of Defense plans to invest $235m over the next four years to fast-track the development of the technology, with additional private investment expected.
The effort is the result of collaboration between the Department of the Air Force, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Defense Innovation Unit, with assistance from the DoD’s Office of Strategic Capital.
“It’s been a little over a hundred years since a few brave Airmen took to the skies and proved the first aerial refueling capability, extending the global reach of our Air Force. This announcement marks another game-changing milestone for the Air Force in our efforts to maintain the advantage of airpower effectiveness against any future competitors,” said Ravi Chaudhary, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Energy, Installations, and Environment.
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