The U.S. Air Force will contribute $235 million to help a startup manufacturer create a jet with a blended-wing body that, according to authorities, may someday be used to transport passengers by airlines and increase the range and efficiency of military tankers and cargo planes.
The full-size demonstrator plane is anticipated to be ready to fly in 2027, according to JetZero and the Air Force, which announced the award on Wednesday.
The majority of big aircraft are tubes with attached wings and tail sections. The body and wings of blended-wing aircraft are constructed as a single unit. A sleek, futuristic-looking aircraft is the end result, and it has less aerodynamic drag than a regular plane of the same size.
According to representatives of JetZero, conventional aircraft have run out of methods to increase their fuel efficiency, and with fuel prices predicted to rise, a completely new design is required to cut back on both fuel use and pollution.
On the project are the Air Force, NASA, and the Defense Innovation Unit of the Pentagon. Northrup Grumman, a provider of defense products, is a partner of JetZero.
A blended-wing body is not a novel concept. Boeing created and evaluated X-48 prototypes on a smaller scale. In wind tunnel testing, Lockheed Martin used a hybrid wing body design.
The Air Force claimed that the ability to produce larger-scale demonstrators has been enabled by technological breakthroughs in manufacturing and materials.
The JetZero demonstrator might assess whether a blended-wing body could be utilized in the next refueling tankers and cargo planes for the Air Force, officials said at a briefing on Wednesday.
They claimed that if the design increased seating or cargo room while lowering fuel costs, passenger and freight planes might also profit. Tom O’Leary, the CEO and co-founder of JetZero, a Los Angeles-based company, stated that the business sector is “hungry for solutions that aren’t so thirsty for fuel.” O’Leary recognized that the Air Force prize would not be sufficient to fund the creation and manufacturing of even a single full-scale prototype, but he provided a few more financial specifics for the business.
“While our total funding is not public, we will have private investment and partners contributing to that,” he stated.