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​Three fairings are placed near the leading edge of the wing at the engine pylons of a C-17 Globemaster III for phase four of C-17 drag reduction testing at Edwards AFB, Calif. Air Force photo by Kenji Thuloweit.

​Soon to be completed drag reduction testing on the C-17 transport aircraft could lead to design changes that would save the Air Force as much as 7.1 million gallons of fuel and up to $48 million per year. The 418th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB, Calif., is nearing the end of its year-long project to reduce drag and increase the fuel efficiency of the C-17, according to a release. The team has used 3-D printed parts and laser positioning to produce five modifications of the C-17 external configuration to best gauge how to reduce drag on the aircraft, which is “the largest consumer” of fuel in the Air Force. Recent configurations have featured the addition of microvanes and fairings to the aircraft. Each configuration is flight-tested using identical conditions so that engineers can determine which produces the greatest improvement in efficiency. The project’s final flight is scheduled to take place in December.