In partnership with AFWERX, Air Force Operational Energy has launched an Airmen Powered by Innovation Challenge to solicit ideas on how to optimize aviation fuel for the Air Force, enabling greater combat capability, range, and more efficient operations. The challenge is open to Airmen of all ranks and occupations and is accepting submissions on a rolling basis.
Each submission will be carefully reviewed by subject matter experts to determine possibility of Air Force buy-in and implementation, based on associated costs, benefits, challenges, and potential risks.
The inaugural 'Datathon', hosted by AFWERX and the Air Force Chief Data Office, will take place from July 14-16, 2020 and will focus on optimizing the C-17 aircrew scheduling software, Puckboard, which our office has supported.
Puckboard enables real time, collaborative scheduling from anywhere in the world and focuses on creating a great user experience for schedulers and crew members while automating time consuming tasks.
On an eight hour flight to Hawaii, software engineers raced to program the final updates to a modeling and simulation tool that would host the Joint Forces Energy Wargame (JFEW), the first of its kind to focus primarily on energy and fuel logistics.
Known as JFEW-Standard Wargame Integration Facilitation Toolkit (SWIFT), the tool provided a digital interface to play, present, and analyze the wargame, and allowed players to quickly react to the operational impact of fuel logistics in real-time. The 40-person event, sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and hosted by the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), took place over four days in August 2019, at Camp Smith in Honolulu.
With a compressed timeline, engineers from the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office within the OSD successfully built and deployed the application while drastically shortening the execution timeline from two years, to 12 weeks.
As part of the Advanced Study of Air Mobility (ASAM) program at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), Maj Donovan Matteson was awarded the 2020 Dr. James T. Moore Graduate Research Prize for his paper, Comparative Analysis of Theater Tanker Planning Software. Sponsored by our office, the paper examined “the problems of inefficient and prolonged tanker planning in theater Air Operations Centers,” mainly focused on the tanker planning software Jigsaw.
The research demonstrated that Jigsaw performed significantly higher than legacy software and processes across all metrics including planning time, tanker hours, fuel burn, and others, with an estimated annual savings of $84 million dollars, and recommends further investment in Jigsaw and similar software across all theater Air Operation Centers.
With the help of 21st century software and an agile development team, the process for planning global air mobility allocation got a modern reboot with the scheduling tool, Magellan – and it took less than a year to deploy across Air Mobility Command (AMC).
Airmen from the Air Mobility Command operations office and the 375th Communications Support Squadron at Scott Air Force Base partnered with Pivotal Software, Inc. and the Air Force Operational Energy office to create a digital application for the long-term scheduling of mobility ‘tails and crews.’ In January 2020, AMC officially recognized Magellan as a tool of choice for allocation planning and began integrating it into normal operations in the following months.
Aerodynamics testing on the KC-135 Stratotanker confirmed vertically mounted wiper blades reduce aircraft drag by approximately 1 percent during cruise conditions, potentially saving the Air Force $7 million annually in associated fuel costs.
Across the KC-135 fleet, blades are positioned horizontally on the windshield as part of the aircraft’s original 1950s design. However, as the understanding of aviation aerodynamics advanced, research indicated placing the wipers vertically (when not in use) could improve aerodynamic efficiency and optimize fuel use.
Scheduling training for C-17 Globemaster III pilots and crew is about to get easier with the launch of Puckboard, a data-powered software application to plan aircrew qualification flights automatically. The tool, developed by and for Airmen, allows schedulers to rapidly match aircraft commanders, pilots, and loadmasters with available flights to complete currency requirements such as aerial refueling and tactical training events required throughout the year.
As 2020 approaches and the Air Force prepares to take on the challenges of the next decade, we must also review our successes and lessons learned. For Air Force Operational Energy, 2019 was a year for laying the foundation to build a more optimized and lethal force in the years to come. By collaborating with several partners, we made some important strides in developing and executing our strategy and were able to set the groundwork for many of our operational energy initiatives.
"Are we prepared to defend the homeland and defeat our enemies at any location around the world? If faced against a near-peer or peer competitor, will we have the necessary infrastructure and logistical supply chain to support the lethality we need on the battlefield?"
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Air Force Operational Energy, Roberto Guerrero, discusses the energy threats we face today, and what we can do about them.
With Energy Action Month in full swing, cadets at the Air Force Academy are taking the initiative to learn how energy impacts the mission, and what Airmen can do to improve combat capability through optimized operations. Every October, the Air Force recognizes the national campaign as a way to highlight the importance energy plays in daily operations, and showcases ways to build an energy-smart force through innovative technologies, policies, best practices and data solutions.
Eight cadets stepped forward to collaborate with Air Force Operational Energy (SAF/IEN) and launch their own energy action initiatives at the Academy. Their first goal was to better understand defense energy challenges and research solutions currently underway in the Air Force, and actions they could implement at the Academy.
October is Energy Action Month, an opportunity to highlight why energy is a critical enabler to combat capability for the U.S. Air Force and Department of Defense, and to encourage smarter energy use and management for installations, ground vehicles, and aircraft. Unveiled this year, the Air Force theme of “Energy Able, Mission Capable” educates Airmen about the importance of energy readiness and resilience for the global mission.
Air Force Operational Energy was featured in the Innovative Energy Solutions for Military Application (IESMA) Special Edition Newsletter, published by The NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme in August 2019.
The report highlights the strategy Air Force Operational Energy is pursuing and how we are actively working toward our goals.
For much of the defense community the ease and functionality of modern technology is not translated to military planning systems. While cumbersome acquisitions processes, funding issues, and security concerns are often valid causes, many Department of Defense processes (and any software associated with them) cannot compete with the technology many Americans use regularly.
In one corner the U.S. Air Force flies the most advanced aircraft in the world, yet in the other corner, Airmen use clunky spreadsheets and paper documents to analyze operations and mission plan.