NASA says the ability to cut drag by controlling the amount of laminar flow— or smoother, boundary-layer air over a wing surface—offers potential improvements in fuel efficiency, range and payload that “far exceed” any known single aeronautical technology. Possible fuel savings of up to 30% for subsonic commercial aircraft have been suggested, should a successful passive natural laminar flow (NLF) or active hybrid laminar flow system be developed.There's more here in this Aviation Week article. The DOD fuel burden impact of even single percentage point improvements would be massive. Efficiency investments here could yield huge returns: less fuel per mission, or longer but fewer missions. Or more 24/7 eyes and ears in the skies to help our guys on the ground.
Image Credit: Standford University