As modern warfare continues to evolve, the Air Force has renewed its focus on maintaining secure fuel networks and optimizing operations for maximized combat capability. Over the past year, the Air Force Operational Energy office targeted specific initiatives that aim to increase operational efficiency, incorporate modern technology and processes, and improve sustainment. Furthermore, these efforts have an added benefit of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a critical aspect of the Secretary of Defense’s climate change prioritization. Here is a breakdown of our latest accomplishments and how we’re bringing 21st century energy solutions to the Air Force.
At this year’s Virtual Air Warfare Symposium, the Air Force Association held a panel on February 23rd with Department of the Air Force senior leaders titled “No Fuel, No Fight: The Future of Warfighting Energy Requirements.” The purpose of the panel was to discuss the inherent vulnerabilities fuel and energy present to troops, and plans to mitigate associated risks, streamline operations, and decrease carbon release as part of the Secretary of Defense’s climate change policy.
The panel covered how energy efficiency, from building more resilient installations and reducing the demand of aviation fuel to mitigating the risk to energy supply chains, will play a more significant role in conducting Air Force and joint operations in years to come, and what will be required in government funding and industry investment to maintain military readiness.
Air Force Operational Energy will take a leading role in the AFWERX commercial-military innovation accelerator, Energy Prime, bringing together industry, investor, and government partners to advance the development of a 21st century energy initiative that significantly increases both Air Force and commercial operational efficiency.
The Energy Prime leadership team, which includes members from AFWERX, Air Force Operational Energy, and the Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability (AFWIC), recently narrowed down its focus to two areas of consideration: Ultra-Efficient Aircraft and Next-Generation Aviation Fuel.
Energy Prime, the first energy-focused Prime, is one of several Prime candidates being considered for further pursuit and funding. There will be multiple research & planning Energy Prime events scheduled throughout 2021 until a Prime initiative is selected.
Every October, the Department of the Air Force recognizes Energy Awareness Month to promote energy resilience and acknowledge the critical role energy plays in mission assurance. As the battlefield grows increasingly complex, supplying power to our forces safely and reliably remains fundamental to our global mission. The observance theme for 2020 is “Energy Able, Mission Capable.” Through optimized planning, data-driven technology, strategic wargaming, energy-informed investments and the dedication of Airmen and Space Professionals, the Department of the Air Force is enhancing combat capability and readiness for our aircraft and installations.
Airmen from Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, Ohio, and Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, helped revise outdated procedures for testing the condition of aircraft batteries on the KC-135 Stratotanker and C-130 Hercules, preventing the premature disposal and replacement of batteries and avoiding unnecessary equipment costs and maintenance hours.
The batteries serve as the aircraft’s back-up to power essential equipment should engine generators fail. To date, the Air Force C-130 and KC-135 fleets, more than 600 aircraft globally, operate with the batteries.
What’s the safest path to transport fuel from a refinery in Texas to storage in California? Does Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, have the pipeline capacity to sustain two weeks of operations after a storage disruption? What risk do cyber-attacks pose at a bulk storage terminal in Louisiana?
X-Force Fellows assigned to our office were tasked to answer these questions (among others) and develop a network flow model to assess possible operational risk to the Air Force’s fuel supply chain.
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.
As part of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Propulsion & Energy Forum held in Indianapolis, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Air Force Operational Energy, Roberto Guerrero, gave the opening keynote speech on Wednesday, August 21. The presentation highlighted some of the initiatives his office is pursuing to increase combat capability through energy solutions, such as fuel use data collection and analysis, modern technology for Joint mission planning, aircraft sustainment, and drag reduction.
"There's a lot of opportunity to optimize how we fly through data and technology solutions," Guerrero said during the 50 minute speech.
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.
As part of a newly offered course at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), a small group of students determined energy-optimized flying conditions for Air Force fighter relocation missions, which are also known as coronets. Their work is helping to inform a Pentagon-led initiative that seeks to increase the efficiency and combat capability of aircraft operations.
The course, Aviation Energy Systems Engineering, began in the 2019 spring semester and is the first of its kind at AFIT, offering students the opportunity to learn the critical role aviation energy plays in mission planning, readiness and logistics. Initiated and funded by Air Force Operational Energy (SAF/IEN), the course covers topics such as aircraft physics, aircraft energy requirements including propulsion & mission systems, and the technologies used to meet those requirements. Future technologies are also considered, along with operational factors such as fuel logistics, wargaming, and energy optimization.
"We need to plan out fuel logistics in wargaming just as realistically as we plan everything else," said Roberto Guerrero, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Operational Energy, at the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Energy Worldwide Conference on May 22, 2019 at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center.
Throughout his speech, Mr. Guerrero emphasized the importance of collecting and analyzing fuel use data for improved efficiency and highlighted a number of initiatives Air Force Operational Energy is working on to increase readiness and combat capability.
Pentagon, Va. - As the U.S. Air Force strives to incorporate more innovative solutions into mission operations, using an Agile methodology to develop software will become increasingly critical. Agile development creates functional and adaptable software that better equips the warfighter to respond to uncertain and ever-changing environments.
Air Force Operational Energy is utilizing this methodology to create tools that optimize mission planning and execution, and improve efficiency.
Pentagon, Va. - The Energy Analysis Task Force (EATF), led by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Air Force Operational Energy, has been systematically visiting Air Force bases around the country to observe actual training and mission flights, and speak with flight crews (to include operators and maintainers) about flight operations, practices, and aircraft requirements that have an impact on aviation fuel efficiency. The goal: to identify optimization best practices (and the challenges to implementing them) across each airframe, and produce a report that recommends which initiatives, processes, and technologies could have the greatest benefit to capability and readiness.
Known as a Line Operations Efficiency Analysis (LOEA), the team starts by targeting one airframe at a time and reviewing applicable publications and in-flight guides for that specific airframe. Then, in coordination with wing leadership, the team visits the aligned bases to conduct in-depth, non-attributional focus groups with aircrews of that airframe.
PENTAGON, Va. - Did you know the Air Force is the largest consumer of fuel in the Department of Defense? This may not surprise you, if say, you’ve ever watched a sortie of F-35s complete an aerial refueling, or witnessed a C-5 lift (seemingly) effortlessly into the sky. In fact, the Air Force consumes approximately 2 billion gallons of aviation fuel annually – which is about 81 percent of the total Air Force energy budget (with about 17 percent used for facilities and 2 percent for ground vehicles).
Operational energy, or aviation fuel, is critical to mission success – but getting fuel to the warfighter involves complex logistical and technical challenges, intricate planning, and more importantly, poses safety risks to the troops transporting it. As the battlefield becomes increasingly multifaceted, energy resilience is a top concern for the Air Force, and optimized operations are an essential component to maintaining it.
In the past year, Air Force Operational Energy saw success in a number of areas. Check out a few ways they’ve helped the Air Force get smarter about operational energy in 2018.
VILNIUS - As part of Innovative Energy Solutions for Military Application (IESMA) 2018, a collaborative symposium led by the NATO Energy Security Centre of Excellence, international experts from the energy and defense communities came together to discuss leading developments in energy resilience and security. Over 500 participants, including many distinguished military and governmental leaders representing NATO member and partner nations, attended the biennial event held in Vilnius, Lithuania from November 14 to 16.
“Optimizing aviation fuel use leads to a number of second and third order effects like increased range, fewer maintenance issues, and reduced costs – funds that could be used for things like more training or new technology,” explained Principal Director of Air Force Operational Policy, Michael Penland.
PENTAGON, Va. - Deputy Assistant Secretary of Air Force Operational Energy, Roberto Guerrero, explains how operational energy data is the new weapon for the Air Force.
"We can no longer assume that “taking off full and landing empty” equates to maximum efficiency. The Air Force burns approximately $5 billion in aviation fuel annually, so even relatively small increases in efficiency (2-4 percent) for our large aircraft fleet could mean hundreds of millions of dollars available for other mission necessities, like additional training hours or upgraded equipment on training ranges."
PENTAGON, Va. - Thanks to an optimization initiative led by Air Force Operational Energy (SAF/IEN), F-35 and F-22 fighter sorties are now requested to fly closer to the fighters' maximum range airspeed, while still within tanker boom limits, during Coronet missions. The faster speed decreases overall fuel consumption, while saving precious flight hours.
In August 2017, Air Force Operational Energy conducted a proof-of-concept demonstration to show that increased speeds during this type of aircraft redeployment decrease fuel consumption. One cell of F-22s and an accompanying tanker for refueling, flew at a higher airspeed, while the other cell flew the standard profile and acted as a control group. Throughout the five hour flight, researchers collected multiple data points in order to compare results from both cells. The faster cell was able to cut about ten percent off the total flight time and six percent of the fuel required for this type of aircraft re-deployment.
The faster speed parameters are within the Aerial Refueling Flight Envelope for the F-35 and F-22, as well as the KC-135 and the KC-10. (See ATP 188.8.131.52 (c), Standards Related Document, 15 May 2018, pp. 8-63, 8-65)
DAYTON, Ohio - Principal Director of Operational Energy Policy and Chief of Staff, Mr. Michael Penland, delivered the keynote speech at the Turbine Engine Technologies Symposium on September 11th, discussing the importance of operational energy efficiency in the Air Force and highlighting how innovative engine technologies can optimize aircraft operations.
Air Force Operational Energy has taken a leading role in incorporating operational energy logistics into modern day wargaming. Prior to 2017, simulated planning and execution in the Air Force Title 10 wargame campaign, Global Engagement, largely ignored fuel flows needed to sustain base operations. At present, Air Force Operational Energy (SAF/IEN) is working with a host of defense and industry partners, such as the Naval Postgraduate School, Air Force Petroleum Office (AFPET), Defense Logistics Agency – Energy, and others to incorporate energy logistics into Global Engagement.
BORDEAUX, France - Deputy Asst. Secretary of the Air Force for Operational Energy, Roberto Guerrero, led the senior leader panel at the NATO Big Data and Artificial Intelligence Specialists Meeting on June 01, 2018. Mr. Guerrero spoke of the importance of data collection and analysis for decision-making, while emphasizing the challenge his office faces in obtaining sufficient and accurate aviation fuel use and other operational data.
PENTAGON, Va. - The purpose of the Advanced Research Announcement (ARA) is to research alternative energy, energy efficient and environmentally safe technologies to provide increased capabilities and benefits to Air Force installations, equipment and aircraft.
PENTAGON, Va. - Blade defects decrease engine efficiency and power, while increasing fuel burn (specific fuel consumption) and exhaust gas temperature (EGT) - resulting in higher maintenance costs, and decreased aircraft availability. Additionally, defective compressor blades can pose a safety threat if not replaced in a timely manner. While researching areas for increased aircraft optimization, Air Force Operational Energy found that cost-effective and reliable blade inspection ensures engines are performing optimally, and is paramount to maintaining aircraft readiness.
ORLANDO, Fla. - Deputy Assistant Secretary of Air Force Operational Energy, Mr. Roberto Guerrero, spoke at Aviation Week's MRO Americas Symposium, alongside Lt Gen John Cooper, Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection.
As a member on the panel 'Big Data: Making It Useful' Guerrero said, "Our goal is data fusion and bringing together the data stovepipes to better understand how we are using fuel. This is critical to mission success."
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Air Force Operational Energy visited the Air Force Test Center and met with Airmen from the 418th Flight Test Squadron and 412th Flight Test Wing to discuss ways to improve operational efficiency and learn about some of the projects they are working on.
Meeting with Airmen and senior leaders from around the Air Force helps us collaborate and find innovative solutions to our challenges.
ORLANDO, Fla. - Senior leaders from across the Air Force, and defense and technology industries gathered in Orlando for the 2018 Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium February 22-23 to discuss the central theme: “Innovation: The Warfighter’s Edge.” Air Force Operational Energy has been an early adapter of this mentality and is already working hard to pioneer DoD energy optimization strategies through technology, data, and innovative idea.
PENTAGON, Va. - Data collection and analysis have been critical to maintaining the effectiveness and lethality of the Air Force for decades, and are more important than ever in the age of big data, machine learning, and the complex challenges of the 21st century. For Air Force Operational Energy, championing data initiatives is the cornerstone of their vision: to create an energy optimized Air Force that maximizes combat capability for the warfighter.
PENTAGON, Va. - 2017 was a great year for Air Force Operational Energy!
ORLANDO, Fla. - Innovative technologies guarantee the Air Force remains resilient and lethal on today's increasingly complex battleground. During this year's Airlift/ Tanker Symposium, held in Orlando from Oct. 26-29, 2017, Air Force Operational Energy presented how incorporating technology that optimizes the Air Force's use of operational energy improves aircraft efficiency and increases the capability of Mobility Air Forces to sustain the fight.
Some of the specific technologies discussed include aft-body drag reduction for the C-130, C-17 and KC-135, as well as software tools to streamline aerial refueling mission planning.
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - In support of Air Force Operational Energy, six F-22 Raptors flew from Alaska to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, accompanied by two aerial refueling KC-10 Extenders on Aug. 13, 2017, to determine if flying at an increased speed could optimize operational energy consumption.
DOVER, Del. - Aviation energy analysts from Air Force Operational Energy visited Dover Air Force Base to conduct interviews for the C-5M Line Operations Efficiency Analysis (LOEA) in order to identify aviation fuel efficiency best practices. Analysts, assigned to the Energy Action Task Force (EATF), met with Airmen from various units to discuss their current operating procedures in relation to efficiency, as well as to assess their awareness of operational energy efficiency.
As of November 2017, the Energy Analysis Task Force (EATF) has conducted analyses at Travis Air Force Base, Dover Air Force Base and Kelly Air Force Base. Fuel efficiency best practices have been identified in the following areas thus far: training range utilization, cruise speed selection, and engine compressor wash.
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Air Force Operational Energy met with leaders and subject matter experts from the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base to discuss innovative methods for increasing energy efficiency through aircraft technologies and operations. Throughout the day, aeronautical researchers and engineers leading projects at NASA Armstrong presented to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Air Force Operational Energy (SAF/IEN), Roberto Guerrero and supporting staff, on a number of ground-breaking developments.
BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. - The Operational Energy team joined the 307th Operations Support Squadron on a tour of Claiborne Range. The team viewed enhancements that allow for more diversified training from other local units, and discussed plans for future improvements to allow more types of weapons to be used on the range. These improvements also provide opportunities for the B-52 Stratofortress, based out of Barksdale AFB, La., to use Claiborne Range instead of using valuable training time to transit to other ranges.
TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. - The Operational Energy team visited the Air Logistics Center at Tinker Air Force Base to discuss the refurbishment of engines. Large sustainment efforts such as the KC-135 C-PUP often bring increased fuel efficiency and are integral to optimizing the operational energy of the Air Force.
ORLANDO, Fla. - Deputy Asst. Secretary of the Air Force for Operational Energy, Mr. Roberto Guerrero, leads an Operational Energy Panel at the 2016 Airlift Tanker Symposium. Panel members included: Mrs. Amanda Simpson, Brig Gen Brian Robinson, Col Laurel "Buff" Burkel, and Col Brent Baysinger. The Operational Energy team participates in many forums and symposiums throughout the year to bring awareness to the importance of optimizing operational energy, and to engage with Airmen and industry leaders on best practices.
VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. - Guerrero meets T-1 pilot students Vance AFB Mr. Roberto Guerrero and Col Chip Bulger meet with T-1 pilot training students at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma. Already in the T-1, students are learning how to optimize operational energy in their cross-country profiles.