JetZero blended-wing gets a boost with $235M funding

The United States Air Force has awarded JetZero a contract to build a working demonstrator of its revolutionary blended-wing aircraft.
Christopher McFadden
Artist's rendering of JetZero's BWB concept plane.


JetZero has been awarded a $235 million contract by The Department of the Air Force to build a working prototype of its revolutionary blended-wing (BWB) aircraft. The contract will aim to mature the BWB technology and make efforts to demonstrate its capabilities for military and commercial applications. JetZero and the Air Force have announced that they are aiming for the full-size demonstrator plane to take flight in 2027, following the award announcement made on Wednesday.

30% reduced drag

Traditional aircraft tend to consist, more or less, of a long tube body with wings and vertical stabilizers bolted on. This has worked great for over a century but has a "ceiling," so to speak, with regard to fuel efficiency. BWB, on the other hand, blends the aircraft body into its high-aspect-ratio wing, decreasing aerodynamic drag by at least 30% and providing additional lift. Enhanced efficiency will facilitate extended range, longer loiter time, and greater payload delivery effectiveness, all crucial in reducing logistics risks.

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

Although the concept of a blended-wing body has been around for some time, recent technological advancements have made it possible to produce larger-scale prototypes. For example, Boeing has already built and tested smaller versions of its X-48, while Lockheed Martin has experimented with a Hybrid Wing Body design in wind tunnels. With the help of improved materials and manufacturing techniques, the Air Force can now pursue the development of full-scale demonstrators.

“It’s been a little over a hundred years since a few brave Airmen took to the skies and proved the first aerial refueling capability, extending the global reach of our Air Force. This announcement marks another game-changing milestone for the Air Force in our efforts to maintain the advantage of airpower effectiveness against any future competitors,” said Dr. Ravi Chaudhary, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Energy, Installations, and Environment.

Commercial uses too

During the briefing on Wednesday, officials highlighted the potential of the JetZero demonstrator to assess the viability of using a blended-wing body for Air Force refueling tankers and cargo planes. Additionally, they noted that the design could benefit passenger and cargo airlines by increasing seating or cargo space and reducing fuel expenses.

“The commercial industry is thirsty for solutions that aren’t so thirsty for fuel,” said Tom O’Leary, the CEO, and co-founder of JetZero, which is based in Los Angeles. While O'Leary admitted that the Air Force award falls short of the amount needed to create a full-scale prototype, he provided limited information regarding the company's funding. “While our total funding is not public, we will be having private investment and partners contributing to that,” he added.

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