The DGA has confirmed that it has successfully flown an ALAT NH90 with an engine powered by 84 percent sustainable fuel. In addition to reducing the helicopter's CO2 emissions by 75 percent and analyzing the effects of this biofuel, the DGA is also marking a world first in terms of the biofuel percentage used.
On February 3, the Direction Générale de l'Armement (DGA) flew a helicopter using sustainable fuel for the first time. The test took place from the Istres air base (Bouches-du-Rhône, France), on an NH-90 medium transport helicopter of the French Army Light Aviation (ALAT). During this flight, one of the two engines was fueled with fuel reaching 84% SAF (sustainable fuel) without any modification of the helicopter or the engine.
The purpose of this flight, in addition to confirming its feasibility, was to analyze the characteristics of the fuel on the engine's performance (consumption and power) and the operational consequences that could result from its use (fuel system, general performance, thermal signature). This successful test also paves the way for future tests, such as longer flights and the development of organic aromatics to increase the proportion of SAF. The goal is to be able to get the various Armed Forces aircraft off the ground using 100% biofuel, enabling an estimated 90% reduction in CO2 emissions.
The DGA was supported in this test by Safran Helicopter Engines, TotalEnergies and Airbus Helicopter. The test flight lasted three hours and resulted in a 75% reduction in CO2 emissions. The fuel in question was refined by TotalEnergies, based on refining used cooking oil (hydrotreating oils and fats). This method allows for production and use that is four times more environmentally friendly than required for conventional fossil fuel.
It should be noted that this is the first time a military helicopter has flown with SAF having such a high percentage.
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