The readiness and lethality of the Department of the Air force are inextricably linked to operational energy and our ability to deliver air power to the warfighter when and where it’s needed, and our team is dedicated to providing solutions for the energy challenges of today and tomorrow. Technological advances across the defense and commercial aviation industry are laying the groundwork for a fundamental shift in aircraft operation and future design. Advances in airframe shape, drag reduction methodologies, and more efficient engines will substantially change the way the Air Force operates today. Benefits will include increased range, loiter-time on station, and reduced tanker demand, resulting in improved combat capability and decreased fuel costs. By investing in research and development now, we can ensure the Department of the Air Force remains resilient and lethal against our adversaries for decades to come.
The Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP) is producing flight-ready prototypes of three-stream adaptive engines for improved performance and capability. By relying on a third stream of air that can be dynamically modulated between the engine’s core and the bypass stream, an adaptive engine can provide increased thrust during combat conditions and increased fuel efficiency during cruise conditions. Fielding adaptive engines on the F-35A will enable air power with increased thrust and range, reduced tanker demand, and additional cooling air for thermal management. AETP capitalizes on the Adaptive Versatile Engine Technology (ADVENT) program and the Adaptive Engine Technology Demonstration (AETD) program.
The Blended Wing Body (BWB) aircraft is one of the single most impactful technology opportunities for future Air Force aircraft, both in terms of capability improvement and greenhouse gas emissions reduction. The optimized airframe diverges from traditional tube-and-wing design to a more streamlined design where the body blends into the wing. The engine may either be placed on top of the aircraft body or embedded in the airframe, giving additional lift, range, and efficiency while improving survivability.
Cargo, tanker, and non-stealth bomber aircraft account for approximately 60% of the Air Force’s total annual jet fuel consumption, about 1.2 billion gallons per year, and incorporating BWB design into these platforms would significantly increase efficiency and Air Force capability through increased range, time-on-station, and fuel offload. The Department of the Air Force expects at least 30% aerodynamic efficiency improvement over current Air Force tanker and mobility aircraft. Incorporating BWB designs across the cargo, tanker, and non-stealth bomber fleet would result in an annual fuel savings of $1 billion per year (with current year fuel price and flying hours) and an annual emissions reduction of 3.3 million metric tonnes.