Air Force Going Ahead With $235 Million Blended Wing Prototype


The Air Force has awarded aerospace startup JetZero a $235 million contract to build a piloted blended wing aircraft. In an announcement on Wednesday, the Air Force said it wants the full-sized prototype to finish flight testing by the end of 2027. “The effort aims to mature BWB technology and demonstrate its capabilities, giving the Department and commercial industry more options for future air platforms,” the Air Force said in a press release. The Air Force has a long history of dabbling in blended wing aircraft but said new technologies and construction techniques make them more attractive.

When it unveiled its entry to the competition earlier this year, JetZero said its design will use up to 50 percent less fuel than conventional aircraft the same size. The contract award is part of the Air Force’s overall push to be more environmentally friendly, and it has identified 60 different missions that might be suitable for a blended wing platform and make them more efficient. “This increased efficiency will enable extended range, more loiter time, and increased payload delivery efficiencies; capabilities that are vital to mitigating logistics risks,” the Air Force said.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Kudos to futuristic ideas and thinking ahead for the U.S. Air Force, non-kudos for implying that a super power that keeps the country safe by shear power and military might is thinking about “environmentally friendly” when protecting itself by blowing stuff up. Two ends of the spectrum.

    • I suspect they’re mainly thinking about efficiency (with “environmental friendliness” a byproduct of that), since efficiency ultimately means lower operating costs, increased range, and increased payload.

  2. Besides it will reduce noise print, I can see no valid reasons for having engines in the upper side of a Blended Wing machine, for sure, sooner than later, it will induce Air supply issues, they better have it mounted in the lower side, or have a twisted air intake below, and a duct, the TriStar style, feeding air to turbines.
    Blessings +

    • Somewhat reduced IR signature from the ground, less susceptible to FOD when operating on unimproved or poorly-improved airfields. Those are two reasons I can think of off-hand.

  3. Fully loaded takeoff speed is probably 175kts and needs 12,0000 feet of runway. Of course if you lose an engine it IS coming down (with most of the fuel surrounding the passengers/payload). Good luck!

  4. “JetZero said its design will use up to 50 percent less fuel than conventional aircraft the same size.”
    Of course JetZero said that. But with the equivalent payload and airspeed, is it that much better? Can’t be.

  5. “The Air Force has awarded aerospace startup JetZero a $235 million contract“
    A startup? C’mon Russ, dig deeper on this story for us. Sounds fishy.

  6. BWBs are cool and futuristic looking (at least they were 20 years ago when Boeing floated the idea). To me the main drawback, especially for public transport, is that they can’t be stretched easily. The old-fashioned “tube with wings” may be a dated design, but it’s much more economical to shorten and lengthen the basic design to fit different markets. A BWB would need a complete design cycle for any changes that increase the capacity. That means a new design for each model with little commonality of structural parts.

  7. Interesting that the Air Force went with JetZero instead of Boeing, who has been working on this for 25+ years (came with the merger from McDonnell-Douglas). I wonder if Boeing has lost some of it’s reputation recently?