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You know, with all the scandal surrounding the Air Force recently, it's refreshing to see that the service is breaking ground in areas that might be a little below the radar now, but will pay big dividends in the future for both the service itself and the general public.

F-15 Hits Mach 2 on Synthetic Fuel

History was made at Robins Air Force Base this week as an F-15 Eagle flew at more than twice the speed of sound using a blend of synthetic fuel.

The Aug. 19 flight was the world's first test of a high performance fighter aircraft powered by a 50-50 mix of traditional JP-8 jet fuel and a synthetic using natural gas as a source.

The Air Force already had tested the new blend on a C-17 cargo aircraft and B-52 and B-1 bombers. But Jeff Braun, director of the Air Force's Alternative Fuels Certification Office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, conceded that fighter aircraft offered a much different challenge.

"They are much higher performance and a much more demanding environment," he said during a late afternoon interview.

Braun said the daylong process included a 50-minute ground test Tuesday morning that pushed the aircraft's engines from military power to full afterburner.

"That was just another risk reduction step to prove the aircraft was not leaking fuel and the engines were behaving nominally," he said.

The actual test flight came in the afternoon. "It was a full functional check flight of about 55 minutes," the engineer said, "reaching speeds of Mach 2.2." Mach 2.2 is approximately 1,450 mph.

Immediate feedback came from the pilots.

"We asked them point-blank if they noticed any difference in performance and they said it was a 'non-event,' " Braun reported. "In other words, they couldn't tell the difference. The aircraft behaved the same."

For a service that's so fossil fuel intensive, it's amazing to see that something as high performance as USAF fighter jets can be powered by blended fuels seamlessly.

Wonder if the airlines will be reluctant to adopt the program since they seem to like nickel and diming the public with extra charges to cover their (waaa waaa) higher fuel costs...?

-- Christian

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