Boeing Unveils a New Stealthy Tanker-Transport Aircraft Concept

Defence Industry

New Delhi: Boeing has unveiled a new concept for a stealthy tactical cargo aircraft with a blended wing-body, or BWB, design. Though the company has been funding this project internally so far, it comes nearly two weeks after Secretary of the US Air Force Frank Kendall said having more survivable airlifters and aerial refuelling tankers will be critical in future high-end conflicts against near-peer adversaries, especially China.

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A model of the newly revealed BWB concept has been on display at Boeing’s booth at the 2023 AIAA SciTech Forum and Exposition, which opened just outside Washington, D.C.

“We thought it was a good time to share the major features of our Blended Wing Body concept, in lieu of the concepts we have shown previously to represent our BWB investigation,” said a statement by Boeing  which went on to say that it was “continuing BWB concept research activities with government customers to advance the state of the art in military transport aircraft design.”

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The more immediate benefits that a BWB arrangement might offer have to do with greater aerodynamic efficiency and, as a result, increased fuel economy and overall range. Internal volume can also be a plus.

The new BWB airlifter design has partial serpentine ducting incorporated into its engine inlets, said a company representative saying that  this helps to obscure the turbine fan blades, which are especially radar-reflective if left exposed.

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The design, overall, remains in a very early concept stage. Boeing has been using digital engineering techniques, something that is becoming increasingly common in advanced aerospace work, and more traditional methods in its development. Various elements of the new BWB design, including the airflow through its big ventral inlets, are set to be further analysed through advanced modelling.