JetZero's Z-5 Blended Wing Body transport plane: an Allied military asset, but a threat to Airbus

The US Air Force chooses the Z-5, developed by the Startup JetZero and the aircraft manufacturer Northrop-Grumman, to study the principle of the Blended Wing Body and open up new opportunities for the future of its fleet of strategic transport and aircraft tankers, with an eye on competition with Airbus in the field of civil transport.

A few months ago, the American aeronautics giant Northrop-Grumman presented its vision of what the future of tankers could look likefor the US Air Force. The project, designated Z-5, is developed by the startup JetZero, and is based on the principle of Blended Wing Body or BWB, guaranteeing reduced drag for significantly increased performance.

If, for the time being, the US Air Force is not in the process of choosing its future tanker aircraft within the framework of the KCz program, it was nevertheless sensitive to the arguments put forward by the designer of the B-2 Spirit and the B-21 Raider. Indeed, this one has just announced that it fwould initiate the construction of a Z-5 demonstrator by 2027, so as to acquire technological skills which, according to him, will be useful both for military transport… and for commercial transport.

The performance of the Z-5 from JetZero is of interest to the US Air Force

It must be said that the Z-5, and more generally the aircraft designed on the principle of Blended Wing Body, do not lack attraction for the military in the field of strategic air transport and in-flight refueling, as for transport aircraft manufacturers. civilian, such as Boeing.

This architecture makes it possible to significantly reduce the drag generated by the airframe, the wings and the engines, by designing a load-bearing airframe, thin wings and engine airframes in masked parts to reduce air resistance. In addition, this shape makes it possible to design more compact devices having the same carrying capacity as the long tubular liners currently in service.

JetZero's Z-5 is based on an integrated fuselage-type architecture

All this reduces the air resistance of the aircraft, while increasing the lift, so as to reduce consumption by almost 50% at equal load, thus increasing the autonomy or the range of the aircraft by the same amount. In addition, the increased lift of the airframe allows aircraft to have a lower stall speed, and consequently to take off and land over shorter distances.

Of course, from a military point of view, such performances can arouse great interest. They would, in fact, make it possible to design a strategic transport aircraft, successor to the C-17, capable of transporting larger loads over considerable distances, all with shorter runways.

In the now highly strategic field of in-flight refueling, they guarantee a largely extended autonomy, so as to provide a potential response to the challenge that the Pacific theater represents for the United States.

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