Feeds

First supersonic swingwing synthi-fuel flight tomorrow

A foretaste of scumjet or mushroom zoom-boom to come?

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The US Air Force has announced that it will carry out the first supersonic flight powered by Gas-To-Liquid (GTL) synthetic fuel tomorrow. A 1980s-vintage B-1 "Lancer" swing-wing bomber will take off from Dyess air force base in Texas, filled up with a 50/50 mix of ordinary petroleum jet juice and synthetic, and go supersonic above the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

The B-1B Lancer at high speed

An old dog learning a new trick.

This test will be the latest in the USAF's series, in which the service plans to clear its entire fleet to fly on 50 per cent synthetic fuel. According to a release from the 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs Unit, noted at Aviation Week's Ares blog, the initial testing is on track for completion in 2011. Using synthifuel normally requires no modifications to the aircraft, just ground and flight trials.

This stage of the idea isn't environment-friendly in any way: the Fischer-Tropsch GTL process used to turn natural gas into liquid involves burning large proportions of the initial feedstock, so that a synthi-fuel powered flight is actually more carbon-intensive than a normal one.

Rather than seeking to save the planet, the USAF is at present seeking to free itself from the vagaries of the global crude oil market. Not only are prices extremely high at present, much of the world supply comes from troublesome regions such as the Persian/Arabian Gulf, Nigeria etc.

Relying on uninterrupted Gulf supplies could be unwise, and also - according to some, anyway - much of the the money paid is used to finance jihadi terror campaigns. Furthermore, Gulf supplies from Saudi, Kuwait etc are shipped past possible enemies such as Iran and emerging power-hungry economies like India and China, who more and more would like to have that crude themselves.

So the USAF would be happy to run on more-secure supplies of natural gas, or Fischer-Tropsch synthifuel made from coal. And indeed, the US military is also seeking tech which could get jetfuel from alternative feedstocks - such as algae scum or even mushrooms - which could potentially be carbon-neutral one day. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.