Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Air Force's Latest Thinking on Energy

Recent DOD Energy Blog posts have shown that the Army is working to bring energy considerations to the forefront of its thinking in operations and installations. The Navy and Marines too, are trying to find ways to run much tighter ships where fuel demand is concerned. But as the tighter ship metaphor probably doesn't work for AF types, here's a new term that's just landed from AFRL: "energy optimized aircraft" (thanks to Steve Iden via Ollie). The goals of the EOA program are to bring more efficient systems to planes and in-so-doing, reduce both fuel requirements and heat signatures in future systems. Nice!

Meanwhile, the Air Force seems to be making progress in the present as well, with some good sounds coming from new Undersecretary Conaton, and leaders past and present, at USTRANSCOM. All of these statements come from "Air Force: to save Fuel, we must change how we Fly" in the July edition of National Defense.

First, Erin C. Conaton, Undersecretary of the Air Force:
We realize it’s ambitious, but it’s incredibly important to set specific goals for reducing demand.
Air Force General Duncan J. McNabb, CC USTRANSCOM points to comparative cost as a major driver for the process-change actions described in the article:
It costs 10 times as much to move stuff by air as it does by surface. Transportation Command has spent nearly $80 million on computerized systems that help plan transportation routes more efficiently. What you have to do is marry the technology with the concept of operations.
And here's an eye opener for you, from McNabb's predecessor, retired Air Force General John Handy:
Moving cargo by sea takes longer but is far less expensive. A single “roll-on roll-off” military cargo ship can carry 300 C-17 aircraft’s sorties worth of equipment.
Numerically speaking, Duncan's 10 to 1 is a major attention getter. But Handy's 300 to 1 is a mind blower. Often, the equations and metrics used to illustrate DOD's energy demand challenges are complex and hard to translate for regular folks. In these statements at least, Conaton, McNabb and Handy make it clear to everyone why the Air Force has fuel on its mind.

Hat tip to USAFA classmate, now USAF BG Ian Dickinson for forwarding this article.

Photo Credit: David Brewster@ Flickr.com

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