Camelina is fueling a U.S Air Force goal of acquiring 50 percent of its domestic aviation fuel via alternative fuel blends derived from domestic sources by 2016.

That got a big boost in March when a F-22 Raptor fighter jet test flew at speeds of up to Mach 1.5 on a 50/50 fuel blend of conventional petroleum-based JP-8 (Jet Propellant 8) and biofuel derived from camelina. The flight capped off a series of ground and flight tests carried out earlier for the Raptor using the biofuel blend to evaluate its suitability in the F-22 weapons system.

The F-22 Raptor test flight performed several maneuvers, including a super cruise at 40,000 feet reaching speeds of Mach 1.5.

"The F-22 performed flawlessly on the biofuel blend citing no noticeable differences from traditional JP-8," said Jeff Braun, director of the Air Force's alternative fuels certification division.

Studies have shown that camelina-based jet fuel reduces carbon emissions by around 80 percent. Additionally, its meal – what is left after oil has been extracted from the seed – has been approved by the USDA for livestock and poultry feed.

Camelina-derived synthetic fuel has been used to power a variety of other military and commercial aircraft, including Europe's first biofuel-powered passenger flight in 2009. Certification of this fuel by the airlines would represent a major boon to the camelina industry.

In February, Air Force officials certified its entire C-17 Globemaster III fleet for unrestricted flight operations using the HRJ biofuel blend.

Duane Johnson, superintendent of the Northwestern Agricultural Research Center in Havre, Mont., learned of camelina when he was looking for an oilseed crop with reduced input requirements that was capable of growing on marginal land. "The advantage with camelina is that it's a superior product for lubricants," Schweitzer says. "For health purposes, its level of omega-3 is as high as fish oil."

According to Johnson, this oilseed contains about 34 percent to 36 percent omega-3 oil and is also high in gamma tocopherol, a superior vitamin E that acts as an antioxidant. Antioxidants give oils a longer shelf life, which should make it a superior feedstock for the biodiesel industry.