Saturday, February 12, 2011

Burn to Deliver

Logistic is second to nothing in importance in warfare -- Vice Admiral Robert B. Carney, USN

During combat operations, more than 90 percent of all equipment and supplies needed to sustain US military forces is carried by sea. Since the start of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, MSC ships have delivered nearly 110 million square feet of combat cargo, enough to fill a supply train stretching from New York City to Los Angeles. MSC ships have also delivered more than 15 billion gallons of fuel–enough to fill a lake 1 mile in diameter and 95 feet deep. (USTRANSCOM 2011 Strategic Plan)

Air Mobility Command airdropped 3.5 million pounds during the entire year in 2006 for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In 2009 this figure jumped to 32,267,606 pounds of cargo. In 2010, it doubled to 60.4 million pounds due the increase of an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan between December 2009 and August 2010.

The dual challenge of rugged terrain and sparse infrastructure significantly impact the effectiveness of traditional convoy resupply operations for many forward bases and combat outposts in Afghanistan. Vertical resupply enables rapid and precise delivery and distribution of tailored support packages to soldiers operating for extended periods of time in austere locations that are considerable distances from forward operating bases.

“The history of war proves that nine out of ten times an army has been destroyed because its supply lines have been cut off.” -- General Douglas MacArthur

In 2010, AMC flew more than153,000 sorties and about 529,000 flight hours. Its flying gas stations offloaded more than1.58 billion pounds of fuel to 115,000 receiver aircraft. (Air Mobility Command, 2010 Year in Review)

Three C-17 Globemaster IIIs carrying 120 bundles dropped the largest resupply of fuel ever to a remote forward operating base Was K'wah in the Paktika province of Afghanistan on 29-30 January 2011. The shipment contained a 30-day supply of JP8 fuel, approximately 20 thousand gallons of JP8. The base has not had a convoy ground resupply in nearly three years due to poor to non-existent roadway infrastructure and the high risk of enemy activity. Air drops have become so essential that when weather or other complications keep the planes at bay, the FOB has to prioritize what capabilities it can sustain. Without aerial supply these combat outposts will become ghost towns. (C-17s deliver largest OEF fuel resupply in Afghanistan)

“Logistics is the ball and chain of armoured warfare.” -- Guderian

Source: U.S. Air Force

Now let us look at a very recent development. Air Force certified first aircraft for biofuel usage.

The C-17 Globemaster III has been certified for unlimited usage of hydroprocessed blended biofuels known as hydrotreated renewable jet fuels, officials announced Feb. 9, 2011. This certification clears the C-17 to fly on a volumetric blend of up to 50 percent HRJ fuel with 50 percent JP-8, as well as a blend of 25 percent HRJ, 25 percent synthetic paraffinic kerosene fuel, and 50 percent JP-8.

The C-17 is the largest user of fuel for AMC. Does it really make sense to use hydrotreated renewable jet fuels to run an elephant like C-17? Forget for a moment all the clean burning benefits. There is no such thing as a green military.

Department of Defense should answer the following two questions:

1) How much additional tax payers money does USAF have to pay for a C-17 running on that biofuel blend compared to conventional JP-8 to fly the same distance? (even if you assume that conventional JP-8 and the above mentioned biofuel blend cost the same)

2) How much fuel has the DOD consumed so far for all the logistics supports (dry cargo, passengers and fuel) to sustain operations in Afghanistan and Iraq?

3) The British army recently estimated that it takes seven gallons of fuel to deliver one gallon to Afghanistan. (source) What is the proportion for the US military?

“A little neglect may breed mischief: for want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for want of a horse the rider was lost.” -- Benjamin Franklin


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