WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio, Nov. 10, 2006 – As an integral partner in the Office of the Secretary of Defense Assured Fuels Initiative, the Air Force Research Laboratory is leading the investigation for suitable, domestically produced alternative fuels for military use.
AFRL is now certifying suitable fuels for the Air Force fleet, as part of the Air Force’s comprehensive energy strategy.
Efforts stem in part from successful flight tests in September wherein two of a B-52's engines ran on a synthetic fuel, made from a 50-50 blend of traditional crude-oil based fuel and a Fischer-Tropsch fuel derived from natural gas, while the remaining six engines ran on traditional JP-8 fuel. The tests occurred at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
According to William Harrison, senior advisor for the OSD Assured Fuels Initiative and an engineer with the laboratory’s Propulsion Directorate, “Air Force Research Laboratory’s involvement has been to look at the science and technology behind the Fischer-Tropsch fuels, focusing on the fundamental lab work and basic fuel properties while exploring the suitability and feasibility of using them to meet Air Force needs.”
“Now that the two-engine flight tests are complete, we will focus on the certification of the fuel for all Air Force aircraft and ground-support and look at how the fuel will work with the Air Force’s existing logistic infrastructure,” he continued.
Harrison added that developing an organized, streamlined certification process for the Fischer-Tropsch fuel is a collaborative effort involving a team from the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Air Force Materiel Command Engineering Office, and the Aeronautical Systems Center.
The Air Force is also looking for full interchangeability in the marketplace and. Harrison said the certification will be on the 50/50 blend.
“However, we will keep researching the possibility of increasing the blend ratio as well, and with the successful flight tests and the preliminary data, we know that we have a proven range that works,” Harrison said.
“With the 50/50 blend, we took a very conservative and methodical approach to the research, allowing ourselves the best options,” Harrison continued. “The 50/50 blend is the closest to the JP-8 fuel that is currently used,”
In addition to the fuel certification, the Air Force Research Laboratory is continuing to research the suitability of using Fischer-Tropsch fuels in other military aircraft applications such as hypersonics and unmanned aerial vehicles.
Through these efforts, the Air Force has taken an innovative approach to find domestically-produced