Despite the turnover in leadership last year, the Air Force remains committed to pursuing its alternative fuel-certification program and is expanding its research efforts in the arena of alternative energy, Kevin Billings, USAF’s acting point man for these efforts, told an industry conference in Alexandria, Va., Thursday. “Actually, nothing’s changed” under the new direction of Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, said Billings. These alternative and renewable energy initiatives remain “a huge priority” for the Air Force, he said. The service remains “ahead of schedule and under budget” in its efforts to certify its entire fleet of aircraft by Fiscal 2011 to run on a synthetic fuel blend derived in part from natural gas—and eventually coal—under the Fischer-Tropsch process. By 2016, it plans to competitively purchase 50 percent of its domestic aviation fuel—about 400 million gallons—from alternative stocks. Air Force scientists are also expanding bio fuel initiatives, Billings said. Last year, the service created a roadmap and the Air Force Research Laboratory is now selecting specific fuels to test.
The Pentagon awarded a contract worth over $2 billion for the next batch of F-35 engines to Pratt & Whitney on June 5. The deal for Lot 17 F135 engines, totaling $2.02 billion, is expected to be completed by December 2025.