Air Force Going Green


Air Force blue is giving way to green on some projects as the heavy fossil fuel consumer looks at ways to lighten its load on the environment. The Air Force announced this week that it’s looking at blended wing designs for future tanker and cargo aircraft that it says will burn up to 30 percent less fuel. It also plans to cut emissions at bases and other ground facilities by half of 2008 levels by 2033 and to have net-zero installations by 2046. “Our overall goal is to deliver more combat power to the warfighter using less fuel,” the Air Force’s the report said. It will also harden facilities against severe weather.

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said facing up to environmental challenges won’t blunt the Air Force’s effectiveness. “Make no mistake—the department’s mission remains to fly, fight, and win, anytime and anywhere. We are focused on modernization and improving our operational posture relative to our pacing challenge: China. We remain ready to respond and achieve air and space dominance when and where the nation needs us,” said Kendall. “Our mission remains unchanged, but we recognize that the world is facing ongoing and accelerating climate change and we must be prepared to respond, fight, and win in this constantly changing world.”

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.

Other AVwebflash Articles


  1. A BWB tanker might be the stimulus to advance civil aviation in that direction as well – much as the -80 was in the ’50s.
    Though I suspect any BWB tanker will take a long, LONG time if recent history of procurement is anything to go by.

  2. I want our military to defend our nation and our freedom, with the greatest regard for the lives and welfare of the men and women in the military themselves.

    If they have to burn every last drop of oil in Texas to achieve that goal I care not a whit.

  3. The reference to Texas was allegorical. I’ll take the oil from where it comes, and we have enough to be energy independent, especially if supplemented by nuclear and hydroelectric.

    Texas, California, The Dakotas, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Canada

  4. Ho-Hum…..If the “Newest and Greatest” dream doesn’t work–drag out an OLD and FAILED one.” For those of us old enough, it reminds us of the failed promises of the Northrup “Flying Wing”–the other failed concept aircraft, and the B-2 “Stealth” bomber. None of them became popular.

    The problems with the concept are many. From Wikipedia “Blended Wing”:

    Evacuating a BWB in an emergency could be a challenge. Because of the aircraft’s shape, the seating layout would be theatre-style instead of tubular. This imposes inherent limits on the number of exit doors.[12][13]
    It has been suggested that BWB interiors would be windowless,[14] more recent information shows that windows may be positioned differently but involve the same weight penalties as a conventional aircraft.[15]
    It has been suggested that passengers at the edges of the cabin may feel uncomfortable during wing roll[14] however, passengers in large conventional aircraft like the 777 are equally susceptible to dutch roll.[15]
    The centre wingbox needs to be tall to be used as a passenger cabin, requiring a larger wing span to balance out.[16]
    A BWB has more empty weight for a given payload, and may not be economical for short missions of around four or fewer hours.[16]
    A larger wing span may be incompatible with some airport infrastructure, requiring folding wings similar to the Boeing777X.
    It is more expensive to modify the design to create differently-sized variants compared to a conventional fuselage and wing which can be stretched or shrunk easily.[16]

    To which I would add–“It doesn’t lend itself well to cargo variants of the same aircraft”–an important consideration to manufacturers. The tankers would likely be OK.

    Don’t you think that if the concept REALLY delivered on these promises–the vast engineering staff of the world’s airframers would be the ones actually PROPOSING it?

  5. The Air Force was “Going Green” when I enlisted, in 1972. When Carter started lowering speed limits, and the Oil Embargo erupted, the military had to enact fuel saving measures. They switched the Thunderbirds to T-38s, and the bombers practicing MITO during simulated scrambles would not takeoff. I’ll guess all of this conservation was a prelude to more “Green” restrictions.