B-1B Cleared to Run Synthetic Fuel

The B-1B has joined the B-52H and the C-17 as the third aircraft certified for “unlimited use” of the synthetic fuel blend that the Air Force is working to clear for its entire inventory by early next decade. Formal approval for the B-1B came on Sept. 15, Jeff Braun, director of USAF’s alternative fuel certification office, told the Daily Report yesterday. The fuel blend is a 50-50 mix of traditional JP-8 jet fuel and synthetic paraffinic kerosene. SPK is derived today from natural gas but can also be made from coal of which the US has an abundant supply, making it highly promising as one means to reduce US dependence on foreign sources of energy. Braun said USAF expects full certification of the F-15 and KC-135 not later than November and of the F-22 in the December timeframe. All three platforms have flown with the fuel already in tests. (Braun acknowledged that an Air Mobility Command release earlier this month claiming KC-135 certification was premature; consequently, we deleted the Sept. 19 Daily Report item.) Flight testing is expected to commence on the C-5 and T-38 in November, on the C-130 in January, and on the F-16 in the April 2009 timeframe, Braun said. General Electric’s F110 engine will be used in the F-16 testing since Pratt & Whitney’s F100 powerplant, which some F-16s carry, has already been tested on the F-15. Reaper and Global Hawk unmanned aircraft are expected to fly in tests with the synthetic mix in the spring or summer of next year. Further, Braun said, the Air Force is still putting together its certification plan for the A-10 and has just initiated a joint effort with the Navy to certify the V-22/CV-22. He noted that, in August, the service certified all of its ground support fueling equipment for unrestricted use with the synthetic mix.