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U.S. Navy Tomahawk Missile Now Runs on Corn

New and improved Tomahawk missiles are now fueled by a blend that uses feedstocks instead of petroleum.

'Environmentally friendly fire' should be added to the military's list of sayings now that Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has found a way to run the U.S. Navy's Tomahawk missiles on corn. 

LANL has come up with a replacement fuel for JP-10 that uses corn bran and other feedstocks instead of any petroleum products. 

This allows for a fuel to be sourced directly from the country's most bountiful crop, without having to lean on foreign resources, all while being environmentally friendly.

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The impressive Tomahawk missile

The U.S. military's most plentiful missile is the Tomahawk missile. It was developed in the 1970s and became one of the first low-altitude, radar-evading cruise missiles on the market. As of today, 143 U.S. Navy warships carry the missile. 

This missile is different from others in that it's powered by turbine engines that trade speed for fuel efficiency and distance. This means they run on JP-10 jet fuel. 

U.S. Navy Tomahawk Missile Now Runs on Corn
Tomahawk missile launching in 2011, Source: U.S. Navy, Jonathan Sunderman/Wikimedia Commons

As the U.S. Navy has around 4,000 Tomahawk missiles to its name, this means that making JP-10 jet fuel is of paramount importance. Now, LANL has found a way to create JP-10 fuel in an environmentally friendly manner, and that's entirely made domestically. Unlike petroleum-based JP-10, feedstock-based JP-10 doesn't need harsh acids to manufacture. 

What is the new and improved JP-10 fuel made of?

The fuel is made thanks to a byproduct of the process for making corn-based ethanol, which is a more efficient use of the corn and at the same time gives ethanol manufacturers a good reason to keep producing it.

The most important factor, though, is the fact that the new method is entirely renewable and is made with the U.S.'s largest crop. With a more JP-10 fuel-based market, LANL believes this could bring the cost of JP-10 down by 50%, and with all the planting, growing, manufacturing, and refining done in the U.S., this would create many more jobs as well. 

It looks to be a win-win situation for all involved, especially the U.S. Navy.

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