- Potential to reduce lifecycle carbon emissions by up to 80% while improving operational effectiveness
- Another key step by the RAF towards achieving Net Zero by 2040
The Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engine has helped the Royal Air Force (RAF) and industry partners to carry out a world-first 100% sustainable fuel flight using a military aircraft of its size, and the first of any aircraft type in the UK.
An RAF Voyager – the military variant of an Airbus A330 – took to the skies over Oxfordshire powered entirely by 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), paving the way for a range of possibilities for the future of flying military and civilian aircraft.
The flight, which took place on Wednesday, was a joint endeavour between the RAF, DE&S and industry partners Rolls-Royce, Airbus and AirTanker, with the fuel supplied by Air bp.
Rolls-Royce has played a vital role in enabling the flight to take place, by securing the technical approval for sustainable aviation fuel use on the Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engine which powers the RAF Voyager fleet.
Prior to the Voyager flight, Rolls-Royce conducted a number of successful trials with sustainable aviation fuel on aircraft powered by their engines. This forms part of the organisational commitment to demonstrate sustainable aviation fuel compatibility on their products as part of the organisation’s net zero roadmap.
Alex Zino, Executive Vice President Business Development and Future Programmes, Rolls-Royce said:
“Across Rolls-Royce we are committed to partnering with our customers to help them become more resilient to climate change. Ensuring our engines are compatible with sustainable aviation fuel is just one of the ways we are doing this.
This flight demonstrates what we can achieve through effective collaboration between industry and our armed forces customers, and I am delighted to see that those partnerships have enabled this achievement to take place."
Sustainable aviation fuel – which is made from waste-based sustainable feedstocks, such as used cooking oil – reduces lifecycle carbon emissions on average by up to 80% compared to the conventional jet fuel it replaces, lessens the RAF’s reliance on global supply chains, and improves operational resilience.
Defence Minister Baroness Goldie said:
“The Royal Air Force has flown the UK’s first military air transport flight using 100% sustainable aviation fuel on one of their operational Voyager aircraft. They should be rightly proud of this achievement; it is a breakthrough moment for the RAF and an exciting development for the MOD.
“Through the RAF’s pioneering spirit, expertise and partnership with UK industry, British science and engineering is leading the way in improving operational resilience and developing future operating capability in a climate-changed world.”
Different approaches will suit different platforms and environments. As such, a range of alternative fuel options are being looked at to ensure the UK is at the forefront of this developing technology.
This success follows last November’s small aircraft UK flight powered by 15 litres of synthetic gasoline – another world-first led by the RAF. Synthetic fuel is made from water and carbon dioxide, which is then put under pressure and an electric current run through it.
The 90-minute flight from RAF Brize Norton, flown by a combined RAF, Rolls-Royce and Airbus flight test crew, replicated an air-to-air refuelling sortie and was witnessed by senior RAF and industry representatives. It demonstrated the RAF’s potential for its future operational capability, ensuring the ability to contribute to UK defence wherever and whenever required.
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