The U.S. Navy recently announced that it had successfully flown the first unmanned biofuel flight of an MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Take-Off and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle at its base near Patuxent River, Md.
The Fire Scout is manufactured by Northrop Grumman and is fueled by a combination of JP-5 aviation fuel and plant-based camelina. The biofuel blend reduces carbon dioxide output by 75 percent when compared to conventional aviation fuel. Camelina, grown principally in Montana, appears to be the military’s aviation biofuel of choice. Camelina blends have been tested by the Air Force in F-22 Raptors while the Navy has used blends in seven different aircraft, including the high-profile Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron.
The Fire Scout, an imposing, futuristic, unmanned craft, provides the Navy with critical situational awareness, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting data to the forward-deployed warfighter. The aircraft can reach speeds of 115 knots, can remain airborne for up to eight hours and has a ceiling of 20,000 feet. It is capable of carrying Hellfire missiles, Viper Strike laser-guided glide weapons and the “Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS),” a laser-guided 70 millimeter folding-fin rocket, which the military sees as ideal for the modern battlefield.
The Army is interested in using the Fire Scout to carry up to 200 pounds of emergency supplies to troops in the field. The Fire Scout is designed to operate from all air capable ships and is currently providing support during its first land-based deployment in U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, which covers the “central” area of the globe and consists of 20 countries – Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Yemen.
The Navy plans to deploy a “Great Green Fleet” by 2016. The Great Green Fleet will consist of an aircraft carrier and all of its escorts, also known as a Carrier battle group, powered entirely by non-fossil fuels. The Air Force is also planning on using 50 percent biofuels in its aircraft by 2016.