Energy Action Month highlights the critical role energy plays in strategic competition

  • Published
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

In recognition of Energy Action Month, the Department of the Air Force is showcasing energy’s critical role in great power competition, particularly in the Indo-Pacific Region.

Building on its three-year theme, “Powering Possibility,” the department is advancing game-changing energy technologies and processes to secure safe, reliable, and efficient energy for the joint fight and ensures its ability to deter adversaries, and if needed fly, fight and win.

“Welcome to great power competition, welcome to Energy Action Month! Energy will be the margin of victory in near peer conflict. Whether it is operational or installation energy, we must work to advance innovation and re-optimize to set the pace in this arena,” explained Dr. Ravi Chaudhary, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Energy, Installations, and Environment. “Energy efficiency ruggedizes our installations, increases our combat capability, and offers redundant energy systems that increase survivability. It also increases our range and endurance, capabilities that are fundamental to the success of an Air Force.”

Delivering operational and installation energy capabilities that increase agility of the joint force and investing in technologies that revolutionize Department of the Air Force energy use are among the assistant secretary’s top priorities. This year, the department advanced key energy initiatives, including introducing the Climate Campaign Plan to adapt to and mitigate the effects of a changing climate, choosing JetZero for the next phase of a Blended Wing Body prototype aircraft project, and progressing a first-of-its-kind nuclear micro-reactor at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.

Operational energy, or aviation fuel, comprises the majority of the Department of the Air Force’s energy usage, providing a tremendous opportunity to optimize energy consumption and build flexibility in places like the Indo-Pacific.

Operational energy initiatives increase the lethality of the department by improving the combat power and training effectiveness of every ounce of fuel use. These initiatives increase the efficiency of legacy aircraft by reducing drag and improving engines, add productivity to our missions with advanced planning and scheduling tools, and deliver tactical solutions to operators to extend range or time on station while ensuring that fuel is available where and when the warfighter needs it.

The Blended Wing Body project supports the Secretary of the Air Force’s operational imperatives that act as a roadmap for successfully bringing about new technologies to deter and, if necessary, defeat modern-day adversaries.

The BWB project does this by leveraging new transformational aircraft technology that is significantly more efficient (at least 30%) than current platforms, offering more aircraft range, refueling capability, and cargo capacity. This transformational technology decreases logistics risks, improves readiness, and will be vital for a fight in the Pacific.

Installations are also foundational to projecting combat power in air, space, and cyberspace. Reliable access to sufficient, quality power and water ensures missions are on time and proceed to target.

The Department of the Air Force has launched a series of pilot initiatives across the enterprise to explore electrification, carbon pollution-free procurement, and innovative energy technologies to build resilience for installations.

For example, the department is pursuing non-tactical vehicle pilots across 45 installations and continues to advance the nuclear micro-reactor pilot program. This clean energy technology can operate independently from the commercial grid and can produce both power and heat for long intervals between refueling, making it a promising power source for remote domestic military installations critical to the national security infrastructure.

The department is also using innovative contracting methods to implement microgrids, which supply bases with onsite power and bolster mission continuity by “islanding” from local grids during unplanned commercial outages. For example, the microgrid at Kadena Air Base, Japan, kept base power intact during a recent typhoon. The microgrid was funded by innovative energy savings methods piloted by 18th Wing leadership.

"We must continually ask ourselves if we are ready for a high-end fight. If not, we must be bold, move with dispatch, and drive change in our installations today. If we don’t adapt to this new reality, our adversaries will. When it comes to the energy race with China, this is an endeavor in which we dare not come in second place — and we don’t intend to." Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Energy, Installations, and Environment Dr. Ravi Chaudhary

To help spread awareness of energy initiatives, visit the Energy Action Month website, and follow the hashtag #PowerDAFPossibility on Facebook and Twitter.