Air Force Tests Synthetic Fuel In Supersonic Flight

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The Air Force flew supersonic on synthetic fuel for the first time last week. A B-1B Lancer burning a 50/50 blend of synthetic and petroleum fuel launched from Dyess Air Force Base in Texas and flew the supersonic test above the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Air Force officials said their goal is to develop a clean-burning, domestically produced fuel by 2011 that can be used by all aircraft in their fleet. Each time the price of oil goes up $10 per barrel, it costs the Air Force an extra $600 million. Synthetic fuel costs about $30 to $50 less per barrel than its petroleum counterpart, for substantial savings.

The synthetic fuel can be produced from domestically available hydrocarbon products like natural gas, coal and shale, and then gasified and converted into liquid fuel. "There was no noticeable difference flying with this fuel," said Capt. Rick Fournier, the B-1B flight mission commander. "I would have no problem flying an aircraft using this fuel in peacetime or combat." The fuel has previously been tested in the B-52 Stratofortress and the C-17 Globemaster III.