The Army’s alternative energy aspirations

The Army’s alternative energy aspirations

Here’s the trick to staying out of political trouble for military service leaders who prize alternative energy: Just stay away from the biofuels.

As Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and the Navy Department have been enduring waves of attacks over their goals for the Navy and Marine Corps, Army leaders have been just as public about theirs. The difference seems to be that the Army focuses more on high-tech solutions for soldier gear and camps, rather than new blends of fuel for Army vehicles.

For example, Army Secretary John McHugh cited “shower re-use” and “mini-grids,” as two ways soldiers could save money downrange, according to an official story. Seventy percent of the Army’s convoy loads are fuel and water, so the more efficient troops can be, the fewer convoys the Army needs to run, meaning less risk to the troops who run them.


“If you’re an Army at war, the last thing you want to do is add to the risk that the soldier takes,” McHugh said. “For every 44 convoys we put on the road in Afghanistan, we lose one soldier. Anything we can do to take a convoy off the road is a good thing.” He continued: “Today in Afghanistan, if a platoon is going on a 72-hour patrol — kind of an average patrol — they have to take 400 pounds of batteries with them,” McHugh said. “So more high-efficiency batteries, rechargeable batteries, these things are critical to getting a load off of the war fighters.”

The Army isn’t just looking into the future for these kinds of capabilities; it’s evidently trying to field them today. According to another official story, soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team got special training this month on equipment that the brass will start to take a bite out of today’s logistical tail:

[The soldiers] received training on multiple hybrid energy capabilities that will increase generator efficiency, improve renewable energy harvesting, and reduce the soldier load by improving battery recharging capabilities. The intensive training curriculum served to increase soldiers’ capabilities and survivability once deployed through a suite of sustainable options. They learned maintenance, system capabilities and detailed operating instructions to prepare them for fluid integration into daily use while in Afghanistan.

Today, fuel consists of over 50 percent of the load carried by supply convoys in Afghanistan. These convoys are especially attractive targets to adversaries, and are regularly attacked. Statistics show that the U.S. loses one soldier for every twenty convoys through attacks consisting of improvised explosive devices and/or direct fire ambushes. There will be over 3,000 resupply convoys in 2012.

That works out to 150 troops killed, according to these numbers, or 69 troops killed, according to McHugh’s. Either way, the Army has a clear incentive to keep getting better at conserving fuel and water.

This emphasis on energy does not yet extend to the Army’s tactical vehicles, although at least one big player wants it to: BAE Systems’ design for the Ground Combat Vehicle would use hybrid-electric drive, which the company says could wind up being a big money-saver for the Army. The vehicles would use about 20 percent less fuel than a comparable big armored personnel carrier, BAE says, and they’d be easier to repair with their fewer moving parts.

General Dynamics’ GCV, however, would run old-fashioned diesel engines. So does that mean it doesn’t stand a chance in today’s double-green Army? Not necessarily. The Army that will select a Ground Combat Vehicle might not be the Army of today — with an ever-smaller presence in Afghanistan, it might put less of a premium on the kind of efficiency that costly war required. (Logisticians probably pray they’ll never have to support operations in another place so expensive and irksome to reach.) And the Army might want a GCV enough that it picks something less efficient but theoretically more affordable upfront, given the high priority of the program.

No way to know yet, but in the meantime, the service’s favorite buzzwords now appear to be “sustainable,” “renewable” and “rechargable.”

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First, “For every 44 convoys we put on the road in Afghanistan, we lose one soldier.” Then, statistics show that the U.S. loses one soldier for every twenty convoys through attacks consisting of improvised explosive devices and/or direct fire ambushes.”

So what one is it?

The article doesn’t specify that the loss of the soldier was due to the convoy, or in the convoy, or due to attacks on the convoy; though it does imply that. Statistics are like that.

On the positive side, I think this is a much more holistic approach to energy (and cost) savings. Reducing lil bits of energy consumption here and there has a multiplicative effect (addition of the parts greater than the sum). Shifting to more efficient and lighter batteries, biofuels, more efficient generators, etc. One of the cooler efforts I have seen (testing at Holloman AFB) is using flexible solar panels on the sides of tents to generate electrical power. Less need for electricity from gas generators means less gas required, less logistics to move the gas, fewer man-hours needed to maintain and fuel the generators, and so on and so forth.

The convoy deaths statistic is based on a Marine Corps Combat Development Command Operational Analysis Division study of a 3-mo period in 2010 in Afghanistan that counted 6 Marines wounded in convoy attacks while hauling water and fuel on 299 convoys. The quote of “That’s one Marine wounded for every 50 convoys” has become “one soldier killed for every 50 convoys,” and that is implied to be the accurate statistic across the whole of the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nobody knows the real statistic. Look up this article: Colonel Robert Charette Jr., “Now Hear This: Marines Need to Be More Spartan with Energy Use.” Proceedings Magazine, 12/1/2010. http://​www​.usni​.org/​p​r​i​n​t​/​6​738.

Again a writer for this site got a reference to the Marine Corps wrong. Marines lead the way on using those very techs 4yrs ago w/the ExFOB. It was being pushed at the same time as KMAX.

In 2010 Deploying India Co 3/5 w/it to HEAVY Combat in Sangin.

Using the solar tent panels called (SPACES) & other COTS that made up ExFOB, India Co used 90% less fuel then the avg. Marine Co. during their 7mth deployment.

Using SPACES & Water Purifiers Infantry Squads were able to conduct 3wk patrols w/out resupplying for water or batts instead of 3 or 4 days.

“writer” refers to the article’s writer who like many articles on this site did little homework when mentioning the Marine Corps.

More politics overall the GCV isn’t needed sine the Bradly can do everything the dumb generals want. A hybrid is worse since its too complex and underpowered in combat This is the Army at it again fighting Afghanistan years after Afghanistan is all over!Better batteries is good but trying to make the DoD go green is liberal clap trap by a Liberal President who uses our military as a social pity dish for is social experiments.

Who else besides DoD can advance highly efficient fuel cells developed by NASA to get over 90% of the energy out of fuel, instead of about 33% for ancient internal combustion engines? Our nation is dangerously addicted to oil and the sooner we end it with efficiency, the sooner we don’t have to risk our troops protecting Middle East autocrats. With economies of scale, DoD can make fuel cells (already widely used by computer industry) cost competitive around the world, boosting exports that fund our tax paying companies that fund our military. It’s time to stop investing limited resources in outdated wasteful engines.

>With economies of scale, DoD can make fuel cells (already widely used by computer industry)

Please give details on this. Give examples

We have been trying to get top brass and engineers to comprehend for years that we can improve overall performance of our vehicles and give them better fuel ratings by simply increasing injector size, better fuel pump, larger turbo and intercooler (improves fuel consumtion x 3 ). Also all military vehicles are geared way way to low for any terrain practicality, installing taller gears will aslo help improve fuel consumption and provide better top end speeds at lower operating RPM’s thus reducing engine wear greatly. But they refuse to authorize the changes even when presented with proven facts from industry and performance specialist.

You work at a depot, right? Have you ever seen a reason for them not making those changes?

It has nothing to do with the cost because we could simply upgrade during replacement for about the same price. The reality is 1. They did not think about it, Meaning they dont know as much as they want the generals to think. — 2. Too much paer work for them to change the specs and TM’s to show the new parts. It’s always we will look into it and get back with you, but they never follow through. But just for proof look at any diesel performance magazine (and all diesels are basicly the same), evry time you improve performance you increase fuel consumption — a 700 hp cummins performace engine has far greater milage than a factory engine. This goes all over in the military — when I was with weapons I showed them how to build an 80 grain bullet for the M16/M4 using factory parts (M856 tracer jacket/ M193 1st filler/ and 3 M856 final fillers) — it wasnt thier ideal though so our guys still get the 64grain junk.

meant to say with every performance upgrade you decrease fuel consumption on a deisel (to a certain point).

The technology is already there even with current technology. Every vehicle on the road right now would get better fuel milage if the cars were lighter, with fewer electronics and emmisions. Right now Hot Rodders are taking the LS engines from GM — Hemi from Chrysler — and Fords new engines, installing them in older lighter cars with no emmisions and stand alone electronics and not only getting better performance from the engines but also gas averages of 27 to 35 mpg from 500hp hot rods. Yep as the engines get more efficient — detroit in conjunction with the oil industry is making cars heavier and heavier with lots of drag on the motors to insure gas milage does not improve enough to drive down gas prices. AND THE GOVT TURNS A BLIND EYE TO IT. “A 2012 plastic body and aluminum Mustang is almost twice the weight of an all steel larger 1968 Mustang.

The current administration has it’s head so far up it’s colon it can’t see or hear. Obama is giving away all our state super secrets so our enemies will like us. Obama is smoking and snorting something strange if he thinks telling our enemies everything will make them love us. they laugh at his stupidity and how he thinks himself a super statesman. Obama is nothing more than a very dangerous narcissist,

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