Feeds

First supersonic swingwing synthi-fuel flight tomorrow

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

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.