ENERGY AND THE MILITARY: U.S. Army, Air Force Forum (Updated)

July 20, 2011 at 11:17 pm Leave a comment

Where Do Unmanned Vehicles Fit In?

The Air Force is working toward changing half of the continental U.S. jet fuel requirement to alternative fuels by 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Andrew Caulk)

Government officials, military officers and energy industry executives have just concluded a U.S. Army-U.S. Air Force energy forum in Washington to discuss developing alternative fuels that are more efficient than petroleum-based fuels — and that are cheaper and easier to obtain.

During the two-day conference, Air Force officials said they have been testing alternative fuels and want to use biofuel substitutes for petroleum-based jet fuel, known as JP-8 – but at about $35 a gallon, the price is too high to be practical. Meanwhile, Army officials said they are well on their way to achieving 100 percent of non-tactical vehicles being powered by alternative fuels. Currently about 70 percent are off petroleum fuels.

One official noted that the Air Force can’t do this alone and needs help from industry. Although the Defense Department “is one of the single largest consumers of fuel in the world” it uses only about 1 percent of the energy all Americans consume, according to the Pentagon’s Operational Energy Strategy. And while the Air Force is by far the largest fuel consumer in the department, it accounts for only 10 percent of all the nation’s jet fuel consumption. The rest is used by the commercial aviation sector.

In a keynote speech at the forum, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn noted that the Pentagon spent $15 billion on energy last year (five billion gallons of fuel in military operations) and more than 3,000 troops and military contractors have been killed or injured transporting fuel into Afghanistan by land convoy.

Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff, noted that energy demand has increased significantly over the past decade and continues to grow as the Army modernizes equipment and develops more information communications technology ICT systems.

“The challenge we face is how to ensure access to energy that is operational, necessary, and mission critical while remaining fiscally responsible stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars,” Chiarelli told the energy gathering.

Two other speakers at the Energy Forum – the deputy assistant secretaries for energy of both the Army and Air Force – spoke with defense bloggers July 20 about each service’s energy goals and efforts at fuel security and cost reduction. They also answered a 4GWar editor’s question about the effect of unmanned vehicles on energy use and the effect of energy constraints on unmanned vehicles.

Dr. Kevin Geiss of the Air Force said it’s too soon to tell because today’s unmanned vehicles are “very limited in their capabilities” but the roles they will play in the future are still evolving.

“One area [where] we have actually struggled with the more recent unmanned vehicles is that some of them require specialized unmanned fuel. That has caused some challenges in ensuring that we have the appropriate fuels available in the field, which causes challenges for the Defense Logistics Agency, said Geiss.

“We don’t know what shapes and forms the unmanned vehicle are all going to come in,” added the Army’s Richard Kidd. “But that said, I think the general expectation on the Army’s side is that unmanned vehicles will give us more capability for less fuel.”

Both Kidd and Geiss said during the forum that the services are looking to industry to help develop alternative fuels and to help bring prices down by using them in large quantities.

4GWAR will have more on the Army-Air Force Energy Forum tomorrow (June 21), including what the Navy and the Marine Corps are up to on this topic.

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Entry filed under: Afghanistan, National Security and Defense, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

FRIDAY FOTO (July 15, 2011) ENERGY AND THE MILITARY: Navy and Marine Corps

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