The U.S. Air Force has awarded JetZero a $235 million contract to develop a prototype mixed-wing aircraft. This advanced technology has the potential to revolutionize military transportation and pave the way for a new class of aircraft. By harnessing the power of innovation, the Air Force intends to expand its capabilities and demonstrate the enormous potential of mixed-wing aircraft.
Modern warfare depends on the efficiency of transportation
Napoleon once said that “an army travels on its stomach.” This saying is still true today, but with a modern twist. In an era of global warfare, fleets of transport aircraft play a key role in delivering essential supplies, personnel, equipment and ammunition over vast distances. A century ago, this logistical feat would have been unthinkable.
The problem of enormous fuel consumption
Transport aircraft currently account for 60% of the U.S. Air Force’s total jet fuel consumption, which amounts to 1.2 billion gallons (4.5 billion liters) per year. To address this problem, the Air Force has joined forces with NASA and the Defense Innovation Office to find innovative solutions. Mixed-wing airplanes have emerged as a promising avenue to achieve significant fuel savings and efficiency gains.
Rotary-wing aircraft capabilities
Mixed wing aircraft are a synthesis of traditional airliners and flying wings. This unique design reduces drag by at least 30% by converting the fuselage into an aerodynamic wing that generates lift along with the wings. The result is significant fuel savings (up to 50%) and increased payloads for passengers and cargo. They also operate seamlessly from existing airports, making them a practical choice for military applications.
Unlocking new possibilities
While for civilian passenger transportation the lack of portholes is perceived as a disadvantage, for military applications the advantages of mixed-wing aircraft can be fully exploited. Refuelers and cargo carriers can take advantage of spacious cabins without sacrificing functionality. After all, the military is used to flying without windows on their current transport aircraft.
Efficiency beyond expectations
By strategically positioning the engines at the top of the fuselage, mixed-wing airplanes achieve even greater efficiency. This configuration allows the aircraft to be operated from unpaved runways, enhancing their operational capabilities. U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall, emphasizing the importance of this innovation, stated, “Mixed-wing aircraft have the potential to significantly reduce fuel consumption and expand global reach. Moving troops and cargo quickly, efficiently and over long distances is a critical capability for realizing our national security strategy.”
Looking to the future
The first prototype mixed-wing aircraft is projected to take to the air by 2027, marking a milestone in aviation history. As this revolutionary technology develops, it has the potential to revolutionize the way military vehicles are conceived and revolutionize the way nations spread power around the world.