The US Air Force has recently stipulated a $235 million contract with JetZero to build a prototype mixed-wing aircraft. This decision is part of a research and development context aimed at improving the efficiency of military air transport. According to estimates by the American military, transport aircraft consume 60% of the total fuel used, equal to 4,5 billion liters per year. The mixed wing, which combines characteristics of conventional and flying-wing aircraft, could significantly reduce these fuel consumption. The goal is to have an operational prototype by 2027.
The importance of the mixed wing
The mixed wing is not a mere novelty in aircraft design. It is a fusion between the traditional structure of aircraft and that of flying wings, which promises to bring significant advantages in terms of efficiency and reduction of consumption. This technology could represent a turning point for the aviation industry, offering more sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions.
The role of JetZero
JetZero was selected by the US Air Force for her industry experience and expertise. The company has the task of transforming the vision of the mixed wing into a tangible reality, overcoming the technical and engineering challenges that a project of this magnitude inevitably entails. The collaboration between the US Air Force and JetZero could lead to significant breakthroughs in military aircraft design and functionality.
Benefits and challenges of the mixed wing
The adoption of the mixed wing could lead to a reduction of the drag coefficient by at least 30%, resulting in increased efficiency. This design transforms the fuselage into an airfoil that generates lift with the wings, reducing noise and allowing for significant fuel savings. The lack of windows could pose (at least for now) a challenge for civilian passenger service. For military applications, however, the emphasis would be on air-to-air refueling tanks and cargo transport.
A vision for the future
Until 2027 arrives, when the first prototype is expected to be launched, it is clear that the mixed wing could represent the future of aviation. As the Secretary of the Air Force pointed out Frank Kendall, mixed-wing aircraft "have the potential to significantly reduce fuel demand and increase global reach." Its potential impact on the environment and the convergence with new flexible display technologies makes me think that in a given future even civil aircraft will be of this type: inside them, instead of the old windows, the whole internal surface of the aircraft inside occurrence will become a large screen that can show the external view (or any other type of scenario).
The mixed wing, in summary, could represent (with other inventions such as the hypersonic flight) a new era for aviation with benefits that go far beyond the simple reduction of fuel consumption. Let's hope for a more "civilized" future, with positive effects in fields that are not always the military ones, unfortunately always privileged.