The Air Force has flown, for the first time, a C-17 entirely fueled by a synthetic fuel blend in all four fuel tanks. An earlier flight had demonstrated the use of the Fischer-Tropsch synthetic and JP-8 blend in one tank. After the Oct. 22 flight, the lead pilot for the test, Maj. Scott Sullivan, with the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB, Calif., said, “There was no discernible difference between” the pure jet fuel and synthetic blend. The Air Force expects to certify the synfuel blend for the entire C-17 airlifter fleet early next year. It certified the B-52 bomber fleet in August. Some analysts question whether there will be enough synthetic fuel production to meet the service’s needs.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.