The US Air Force is investing $235 million in aerospace startup JetZero to build an unconventional plane that burns far less fuel than the aircraft that have long dominated the skies.
(Bloomberg) — The US Air Force is investing $235 million in aerospace startup JetZero to build an unconventional plane that burns far less fuel than the aircraft that have long dominated the skies.
The award, made by the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit, will be paid out over four years. JetZero plans to start flying a demonstrator model, a full-scale blended-wing body aircraft, by early 2027, US officials said Wednesday.
JetZero was formed to solve one of the aviation industry’s biggest and most vexing problems: cutting its stubbornly high fossil fuel emissions while coping with rising demand. The company thinks by changing an aircraft design that’s been in place for about a century it can create planes that use half as much fuel.
Traditional airplanes feature a long tube to house passengers and cargo, requiring a large tail to provide stability. The JetZero model will feature a shorter, wider fuselage that’s melded into the wings — with no tail.
The new fuselage design is inherently more stable than those of the conventional jetliners produced by Boeing Co and Airbus SE, JetZero claims. With less weight and drag, JetZero’s aircraft will be large enough to carry upwards of 200 passengers, similar to the capacity of a small widebody jet. Its model will be powered with smaller Pratt & Whitney engines designed for narrowbody aircraft, according to its website.
Using technology that company officials have refined with NASA over 30 years, Los Angeles-based JetZero aims to introduce a commercial version of its aircraft by early next decade, according to its website.
The Defense Innovation Unit was formed to accelerate the adoption of promising commercial technology, from hypersonics to artificial intelligence.
Pentagon officials will be watching carefully to assess the aircraft’s potential as a futuristic cargo hauler or aerial refueler. JetZero’s design is a “game-changing milestone” in the Defense Department’s effort to stay ahead of its competitors, said Ravi Chaudhary, an assistant secretary of the Air Force.
“Moving forces and cargo quickly, efficiently, and over long distance is a critical capability to enable national security strategy,” said Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall.
(Updates with comments from Air Force officials in the eighth and ninth paragraphs.)
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