Fighter Engine Enters the Mix

Engineers at the Air Force’s Arnold Engineering Development Center on the grounds of Arnold AFB, Tenn., began running Pratt & Whitney’s F100 fighter engine April 29 on the synthetic fuel blend that the service wants its entire fleet capable of using by 2011. The tests of the F100, which powers the F-15 and versions of the F-16, took place in a test cell that simulates supersonic and high-altitude conditions. The F100 is the first fighter engine tested with the fuel mix, which is comprised half of traditional JP-8 aviation fuel and half of a synthetic paraffinic kerosene, or SPK. The latter is derived from natural gas or coal via the Fischer-Tropsch refining process that was developed in Germany in the 1920s. USAF is in the process of certifying its various platform-engine combinations to operate with the fuel blend. Already the service has certified the B-52H bomber and is well along in the process of clearing the C-17 to use the fuel. A B-1B bomber made its inaugural flight March 19 with the fuel blend. That flight marked the first time that a high-performance, afterburning engine—in this case, General Electric’s F101 powerplant—burned the synthetic mix in flight. (Arnold report by Janae Daniels)