The USS Nimitz aircraft carrier is set to become the US Navy's first ship to launch a fleet of biofuel-powered aircraft from its flight deck.
In trials being carried out from 18 July 2012 onwards, several different US Navy types are due to take off from the nuclear-powered carrier, including Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, McDonnell Douglas F/A-18C/D Hornets, Sikorsky SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters and Grumman E-2C/D Hawkeye airborne early warning and control aircraft.
The US Navy biofuel launches form part of the Great Green Fleet demonstration event and involve a blend of standard aviation jet fuel (JP-5) and a hydro-processed renewable fuel named HRJ-5. HRJ-5 consists of 50 per cent jet fuel and a 50 per cent blend derived from algae and animal waste fat.
Biofuel Aircraft Fleet Launches
‘The demonstration serves as another milestone in the navy's pursuit to improve combat capability through improved energy efficiency measures by investing in advanced biofuels that are domestically produced', the US Navy explained in a statement on the biofuel fleet launches.
"If we can prove that it works for air operations, then we will be able to mass produce it here in the US", Commander Michael Maxwell added.
The whole idea is to take initial biofuel flight tests one stage further by, hopefully, showing that power sources have a viable role to play in actual operating settings and that they can be projected out, over the waves, at a time when the US Navy is actively redistributing its assets to give it a greater presence in areas such as the Asia-Pacific region.
USS Nimitz Biofuel Aircraft
The Great Green Fleet demonstration's USS Nimitz biofuel aircraft launches form part of the RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific) exercise which began on 29 June 2012 and runs until 3 August. This is a massive exercise involving the naval assets of 22 nations, over 40 submarines and ships, 200 aircraft and 25,000 military personnel.
No other naval exercise brings together so much naval participation and the 2012 edition is the 23rd to have been staged since 1971.
USS Nimitz has been in service since the 1970s and remains a cornerstone of the US Navy's maritime strike capability. Over 1,000 feet long, it can cruise over an indefinite range for up to 25 years at a time, only needing to return to shore to transfer its crew.