JetZero to build full-scale blended wing body demonstrator aircraft

Initial flight tests of a blended wing body aircraft could take off in 2027 following JetZero’s selection by the US Department of the Air Force to build a full-scale demonstrator.

Shown is a rendering of the blended wing body prototype aircraft
Shown is a rendering of the blended wing body prototype aircraft - USAF

With a design that differs from a traditional tube-and-wing aircraft, the blended wing body (BWB) merges the aircraft body into its high-aspect-ratio wing, decreasing aerodynamic drag by at least 30 per cent and providing additional lift. This increased efficiency will enable extended range, more loiter time, and increased payload delivery efficiencies.

“Blended wing body aircraft have the potential to significantly reduce fuel demand and increase global reach,” said secretary of the Air Force, Frank Kendall. “Moving forces and cargo quickly, efficiently, and over long distance is a critical capability to enable national security strategy.”

Under the terms of the award from DoD’s Defence Innovation Unit, California-based JetZero will receive $235m over four-years, culminating in first flight of the full-scale demonstrator by the first quarter of 2027.

JetZero is collaborating with Northrop Grumman and Scaled Composites to build and test the full-scale demonstrator, which will be fitted with Pratt & Whitney GTF engines. Pratt & Whitney GATORWORKS will support JetZero with the design and integration of the propulsion system within the demonstrator.

The BWB concept has been around for decades, but technology advancements in structural design, materials technology, manufacturing, and other areas have made large-scale production achievable. The commercial industry, including passenger airlines and air freight companies, stand to benefit from development of this technology as well, increasing available cabin or cargo space while decreasing operational fuel costs.

“The BWB is the best first step on the path to zero carbon emissions. It offers 50 per cent lower fuel burn using today’s engines and the airframe efficiency needed to support a transition to zero carbon emissions propulsion in the future,” said JetZero CEO Tom O’Leary, “No other proposed aircraft comes close in terms of efficiency.”