Biofuels Digest reports that in Maryland, USA, the Naval Air Systems Command is preparing to test biofuels in an F/A-18 Super Hornet by next summer. The Navy has issued an RFP for JP-5 jet fuel made from biomass, and has stipulated that it be made from non-food feedstocks, pointing the RFP towards algae, jatropha and camelina.
The initial RFP is for 40,000 gallons of fuel and will commence with ground tests in December or January on the Super Hornet’s F414 engine, followed by flight tests.
The contract is expected to be awarded this month. The fuel requirement is for a drop-in replacement fuel, and is part of the Navy’s focus on developing alternative fuel sources for energy independence and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. According to reports, lab work will consume 50,000 litres, ground tests will consume 62,000 litres and the flight tests will consume 70,000 litres.
The Boeing Super Hornet is a carrier-based fighter aircraft, carries air-to-air missiles and air-to-surface weapons. The Super Hornet first flew in 1995. Based on its fuel consumption rates, the tests will cover at least 15,000 miles of flight testing (on an unblended basis).
Military interest in advanced biofuels stems from strategic goals – having a mobile, independent source of fuels for military applications. However, the military is also supporting the overall government goals of reducing fuel usage and associated greenhouse gas emissions. The US military is the world’s largest consumer of fuel at a rate of more than 340,000 barrels per day and USD 13.6 billion per year. The United States Air Force has set a goal of producing 50 per cent of its fuels by alternative means by 2016.
The military’s most interesting flight test to date took place last year, when a US Air Force B-1 bomber mission, code named Dark 33, became the first jet to reach supersonic speeds using synthetic jet fuel. The test flight was carried out at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
Although most research in cellulosic conversion of biomass has focused on ethanol, the military is seeking drop-in fuels that have higher energy density than ethanol as well as superior performance characteristics.