A synthetic fuel blend powered the 17 December cross-country flight of a US Air Force Boeing C-17 strategic transport, with the aircraft departing McChord AFB, Washington and arriving at McGuire AFB, New Jersey.
Secretary of the air force Michael Wynne says the service "is taking a leadership role in testing and certifying the use of synthetic fuel in aircraft," adding: "This is especially important because JP-8 military jet fuel is commonly used in the battlefield by the army and marines' tactical vehicles and generators, as well as our aircraft."
The demonstration included a pass over New York City © US Air Force
On the same day at Nellis AFB, Nevada, a major photovoltaic solar array came online as part of a major renewable energy initiative by the USAF - the US government's largest energy user. Easing dependence on imported oil is a major motivator, and the air force intends to have its entire fleet certified to run on synthetic fuel by 2011.
Its Boeing B-52 bomber became the first to achieve certification last August. "If we are out there telling the marketplace that that's our expectation, we believe we will drive the marketplace to that end," says assistant air force secretary William Anderson, adding that dozens of companies are starting up Fischer Tropsch facilities. However, only a handful of plants exist that are capable of servicing large-scale demand.
One of these is Shell Malaysia, which provided the 1.06m litres (281,000USgal) of fuel used in USAF tests since mid-2007. The air force will again solicit bids for fuel in 2008, when ground afterburning tests of the General Electric F101-powered Boeing B-1B bomber will advance to supersonic flight tests.
"We are going to do a long test on the stand to make sure there is nothing unexpected," says Anderson.