RAF test pilot's world record flight on 100% synthetic fuel 03112021 CREDIT MOD.jpg
In November, an RAF test pilot set a world record with a flight on 100% synthetic fuel (Picture: MOD).
Sustainability

Sustainable fuel set to power RAF reaches landmark new stage

RAF test pilot's world record flight on 100% synthetic fuel 03112021 CREDIT MOD.jpg
In November, an RAF test pilot set a world record with a flight on 100% synthetic fuel (Picture: MOD).

Major research into sustainable fuel that could revolutionise the Royal Air Force has reached a landmark new stage.

The research carried out by the RAF in partnership with British firm Zero Petroleum, focused on using synthetic fuel technology, which could eliminate the RAF's reliance on fossil fuels.

Farnborough International Airshow was where this new landmark stage into sustainable fuels in military aircraft was announced.

In November 2021, a Royal Air Force test pilot flying the Ikarus C42 microlight aircraft made history with the world's first-ever flight on 100% synthetic fuel.

The next phase is producing more fuel for certification and testing. Design blueprints from this research will enable the construction of squadron-scale fuel manufacturing capability as the next stage.

Synthetic fuels are believed to burn more cleanly and consistently than fossil fuels – that theory will form part of the testing in this phase.

Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said: "The creativity and ingenuity of the RAF and UK industry, backed by our ring-fenced research and development funding, has resulted in ground-breaking new fuel technology.

Watch: RAF test pilot's world record flight on 100% synthetic fuel in November.

"It has the potential to improve operational resilience while eliminating fossil carbon emissions in flight," Mr Quin added.

Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston called the RAF's collaboration with Zero Petroleum a "ground-breaking" collaboration and a "glimpse of the future for aviation fuel".

The head of the Royal Air Force said: "It points to how we will crack the Net Zero challenge as a national and international endeavour, and the leading role the Royal Air Force and UK science and technology can play in that."

The microlight aircraft famed for the world's first-ever flight on 100% synthetic fuel, which was on display at Farnborough on Tuesday, completed a short UK flight, powered by 15 litres of fully synthetic gasoline – made from just water, thin air and renewable energy.

While green technologies like electric and hydrogen power generation are viable for many RAF platforms, high-performance aircraft, fast jets for example, require a liquid fuel alternative to maintain operational capabilities.

Microlight uses fully synthetic gasoline – made from just water, thin air and renewable energy 02112021 CREDIT MOD
The microlight aircraft uses fully synthetic gasoline – made from just water, thin air and renewable energy (Picture: MOD).

This breakthrough underscores the MOD's solution-based approach to addressing climate change issues while meeting operational commitments and remaining agile in a world of evolving threats.

Sustainable aviation fuel could mark a step change toward the RAF's goal to be Net Zero by 2040.

Working toward the Government's Net Zero by 2050 goal, the RAF also plans for its first Net Zero airbase by 2025.