Air Force Testing Camelina Biofuel in Fighting Falcons

John Davis

From a guy who has had some great opportunities to be right on the flightline as Fighting Falcons roared to life, this picture doesn’t do justice to that rumble you feel deep down in your bones as you watch these magnificent machines take off to fight the war in the air, ready to blow things up and kill the bad guys (sorry, I get a little caught up in nostalgia this close to Independence Day). Now, these fine war birds will soon be dominating the skies on a blend of clean-burning biofuel.

This U.S. Air Force press release
says an F-16 engine at the Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) in Tennessee is testing a 50/50 blend of JP-8 conventional aviation fuel and a camelina-based biofuel:

“The testing recently initiated at AEDC will be the first dedicated, uninstalled engine tests conducted by the Air Force [on Hydro-processed Renewable Jet (HRJ) blended fuel],” said Jeff Braun, the Air Force’s Alternative Fuels Certification Office director. “These will also be the first engine tests conducted by the Air Force [on HRJ blended fuel] in a facility that can simulate altitude effects on the aircraft. The data produced will be very, very valuable in this program. In fact, we plan on using that data to justify and support upcoming flight tests of the F-22, the C-17 and then possibly even the F-15.”

This test supports the bio-fuels certification effort of this field engine, said 1st Lt. Antonio Brunson, 717th Test Squadron program manager for the first phase of the test.

Testing will simulate the overall engine conditions experienced in the full flight envelope and include ignition light-off, throttle transients, augmenter lights and sequencing along with screech and rumble monitoring.

Military aircraft engines operate with afterburners to enhance thrust, but these can create large unsteady pressure oscillations termed screech and rumble, which can damage the afterburner structure.

Officials see the green fuel as the future for the Air Force.