JetZero Receives $235M Defense Department Award to Develop Blended-Wing Aircraft

The demonstrator airplane, which is expected to take its first flight in 2027, is designed to cut fuel consumption, emissions and noise.

JetZero plans to build and fly its blended-wing demonstrator by 2027. [Courtesy: JetZero]

Aircraft developer JetZero said the Air Force is investing in the company’s blended wing body, or BWB, aircraft design aimed at cutting fuel consumption, emissions, and noise.

Under the terms of an award from the Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), JetZero will receive $235 million over four years, during which it will build a full-scale demonstrator aircraft to validate the blended-wing concept. The award period is expected to culminate in the demonstrator’s first flight by the first quarter of 2027.

The DIU was founded in 2015 to help the U.S. military quickly make use of emerging commercial technology. JetZero, based at Long Beach Airport (KLGB) in California, was founded in 2021 with the goal of developing the next generation of sustainable jet transports and on the way to zero-emission aviation.

JetZero's blended wing body demonstrator will be powered by currently available Pratt & Whitney GTF engines but is designed to convert to hydrogen propulsion in the future. The company is also collaborating with Northrop Grumman and Scaled Composites to build and test the aircraft.

"The BWB is the best first step on the path to zero carbon emissions. It offers 50 percent 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."

Based on certain projections, JetZero said it expects air traffic to grow at 3.6 percent annually and the global airline fleet to nearly double to 47,700 aircraft by 2041. The company said its aircraft “can play an essential role in reducing the industry’s carbon footprint.”

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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