The Air Force is working on fuel-saving, 3D-printedmicrovanes” to improve the C-17’s efficiency.

The Air Force is weighing making aerodynamic upgrades to one of its primary cargo aircraft to cut fuel consumption and have a lighter environmental impact.

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center are undertaking airworthiness certification to fit microvanes on C-17s as part of a project that has been in the works for years.

“Microvanes™ for the C-130, a Lockheed Martin Corporation patented technology licensed to Metro Aerospace, bring performance enhancement and cost reduction for the Hercules aircraft as well as other large aircraft with steep aft ramp designs. Although the flat cargo ramp and door on the C-130 provide exceptional airdrop and rescue capability, this same feature creates a significant amount of drag due to the abrupt change in airflow.”

“Microvanes are small aerodynamic components specifically designed to reshape the air flow around the aft cargo door. When adhesively surface mounted to each side of the fuselage, these devices effectively reduce drag, reducing fuel and engine thrust requirements.”

According to the Air Force, fitting the parts could save millions of dollars in fuel yearly.

According to Air & Space Forces Magazine, Ed Clark, an AFRL engineer, is pleased with this advancement on an existing aircraft for fuel efficiency and mission enhancement.

The microvanes are a prime example of “bringing modern technologies forward on an older aircraft,” said Clark, an AFRL’s Material and Manufacturing Directorate’s Future Force Energy office employee.