This week the US Air Force achieved the first supersonic flight using alternative synthetic fuel, booming a B-1B Lancer over the White Sands Missile Range airspace in New Mexico without any problems. The supersonic strategic bomber, designed to deliver atomic weapons, will be able to start Armageddon at US$30 to US$50 less per barrel while helping the environment and without depending on foreign oil. You read that well, you commie hippie treehuggers: war is getting cheaper, and it will help climate change, nuclear winter excluded. Looking at its composition, however, the synthetic fuel is certainly not as harmless as other alternatives.
Unlike other aircraft fuel efforts, like hydrogen-fuelled planes or vodka with Red Bull, the synthetic fuel used in the B-1B is actually derived from natural gas using the Fischer-Tropsch process. The 50% synthetic fuel and 50% petroleum gases mixture, however, is as capable as regular fuel, feeding with ease the B-1B's four General Electric F101-GE-102 augmented turbofans and pushing the variable sweep-winged bomber at Mach 1.25 to its objective, where it can launch AGM-69A short-range nuclear missiles, drop 24 Mk84 bombs or spread a lot of good will and clean air.
According to the USAF, the fuel is still under test after trying it successfully in this B-1B and the subsonic B-52 Stratofortress. They are aiming "to have every aircraft using synthetic fuel blends by 2011," according to Maj. Don Rhymer from the Air Force Alternative Fuels Certification Office. My favourite quote, however, comes from Captain Rick Fournier, the B-1B commander:
It's great to be part of an Air Force initiative that is also helping the environment, Captain Fournier said. "Using a fuel that is cheaper and cleaner ... what could be better?"