US Air Force kills king coal

By Jeffrey Decker

A major initiative by the US Air Force to support alternative fuel development has been cancelled following a security and feasibility review.

Montana coal would have been converted via the Fischer-Tropsch process into synthetic jet fuel by a private producer at the under-used Malmstrom AFB in Montana. The facility would have cost hundreds of millions of private dollars and was meant to promote domestic production to help supply half of the USAF's domestic fuel needs from coal or gas by 2016.

The USAF says the fuel project could interfere with security and safety in what is a weapons storage area used by the 341st Space Missile Wing.

Tests continue at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio to ready the entire fleet to use 50% Fischer-Tropsch blends by 2011. An order for 1.27 million litres (335,000USgal) of the fuel made in the 70-year-old process will be tendered this year.

The Boeing B-52 and C-17 and Rockwell B-1 are already certificated. Boeing's F-15, KC-135 and C-5, and the Lockheed Martin F-22 have all had successful flight demonstrations.

Flight tests of the General Electric F110 engines on a Lockheed Martin F-16 are imminent and Lockheed Martin C-130 trials are scheduled for April or May, says USAF Alternative Fuels Certification Office director Jeffrey Braun.

The GE F101 and Pratt & Whitney F100 and F119 engine families have been successfully tested, he adds.

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