Lockheed is one of the best, most interesting and the largest aircraft companies in the world: The very first Lockheed aircraft, a wood and muslin-covered seaplane, was designed to carry passengers. Over the next 100 years, through aircraft such as the Electra, Clipper, Lodestar, Mars, Constellation, Hercules, StarLifter, TriStar, and Galaxy, Lockheed Martin built a long and continuous legacy of aircraft designed to move important people, equipment, or more critically, mountains of relief supplies after a disaster from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible.
Whenever more and more aircraft fill the sky, the aircraft have to be controlled and airspace "deconflicted"—the number of takeoffs should always equal the number of landings. And Lockheed Martin is also a leader in air traffic control. Today, our software helps millions of people reach their destinations every year, touching about 60 percent of the world’s total air traffic.
Smaller defense budgets are driving the need for “greener” tankers, and strategic and tactical airlifters. In 2010 alone, the U.S. Air Force spent $10 billion in fuel, with mobility aircraft being the biggest gas guzzler.
“Saving even one percent is a huge amount of fuel and a big reduction in cost,” said Rick Hooker, Skunk Works® manager of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Revolutionary Configuration for Energy Efficiency (RCEE) program.
New efforts such as the RCEE program are seeking to identify the highest fuel saving technologies and develop their maturation plans for the 2035 time frame.
“We can improve mobility capabilities with 70 percent less fuel than a C-17,” says Hooker. “The cornerstones of our Hybrid Wing Body (HWB) concept are efficiency, affordability, and compatibility. Designed with an eye to the future, the HWB program would save 400 million gallons of fuel per year and would be capable of dual use as both an efficient transport and tanker.”
Despite the major importance to look ahead, there are opportunities that are already being implemented today. For instance, the C-130’s fuel efficiency can be boosted thanks to lightweight devices called micro-vanes, which reduce the aircraft’s drag. These miniature strake-like devices are located on each side of the aircraft’s aft fuselage near the cargo ramp door and horizontal tail.
“Both legacy and C-130J operators can benefit because the shape of the back end of the aircraft hasn’t changed,” said Edward DiGirolamo, Skunk Works research engineering manager. “Microvanes can be installed on the production line or as an easy retrofit with no structural impact. They are relatively inexpensive and offer a good payback.”