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Saving Fuel to Defend our Nation

March 9, 2015

Airplane fuel filling another aircraft in air

Many of you will be familiar with the impact of Fuel Sense on FedEx operations. Cutting costs in business is a fundamental concept. Reduced overhead allows for better prices for consumers, better profit margins for shareholders, increased market share… it’s just better business. Add on to that the positive environmental impact and reduced fuel consumption is a win-win-win proposition.

As citizens, and taxpayers, have you considered how Fuel Efficiency concepts in the military affect you? You are well aware that the US defense budget is substantial. You may not know, however, that the Department of Defense spent over $14B on aviation fuel in 2014. Reduced fuel consumption in the Department of Defense means $$ that can be reallocated to vital recapitalization, modernization, or quality of life programs all aimed at supporting and defending our nation.

Consider Air Mobility Command (AMC) – the division of the USAF that is responsible for air transportation of people, equipment, supplies, and fuel around the world through Airlift, Aerial Refueling, and Aeromedical Evacuation. Each day, AMC flies over 500 missions worldwide with its fleet of over 1,160 aircraft. In 2014, airmen in the Active Duty, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard, in cooperation with contract carriers (including FedEx) moved 1.1 million passengers, 490,000 tons of cargo, and 6,000 patients on nearly every continent. Additionally, well over 43 million gallons of fuel were transported and transferred via air-to-air refueling. As the executer of Global Air Mobility, AMC’s fuel consumption for 2014 was 975 million gallons at a cost of over $3.5 billion. Because of the nature of the mission, and the aircraft being flown, AMC is by far the largest consumer of aviation fuel in the DoD.

So how does AMC save fuel? First, we have a strong cooperative effort with our colleagues in the commercial sector. By joining with those working to improve fuel efficiency, such as FedEx’s Fuel Sense program, we are able to implement those concepts which transcend civil-military distinctions. Our priorities are 1) Optimized Fuel Loads and Accurate Cargo Weights, 2) Fuel Efficient Flight Planning and Execution, and 3) Optimized Simulator Training. Since 2008, AMC has introduced efforts to reduce aircraft weight, improve flight planning routings, implement cost-index flying, decrease auxiliary power unit usage, upgrade engines for fuel performance, and decrease drag. We use high-fidelity simulation to the maximum extent possible. These initiatives have reaped significant benefits in fuel consumption. Looking to the future, we are linked with the scientific and technology community to ensure we explore and exploit advances in fuel efficiency.

For the military, cost-savings are only one benefit of reduced fuel consumption. Our largest impact comes in the form of operational capacity. By reducing fuel loads and consumption, we are able to increase the range or orbit duration of our aircraft, increase the amount of cargo we carry, and/or increase the fuel we offload in aerial refueling. Decreased fuel loads can mean greater safety margins during critical phases of flight such as takeoff, approach, and landing. It can mean increased performance during military-unique operations such as air refueling, airdrop, formation flying, and austere airfield resupply. Military operations – whether training or in combat – can test the capability of both aircraft and aircrew. AMC aircrews frequently operate at night using night vision devices, at low altitudes, in all weather, in challenging terrain, and under threat of harm from adversaries.   Bottom line — Fuel efficiency is an opportunity to provide additional capability and capacity to our operations.

As a citizen and a taxpayer, as well as a professional military officer and aviator, I know fuel efficiency is important to our national security. It takes effort… and it takes a change in mindset and culture for all who play a part. But whether saving dollars for future investment in defense or expanding our current operational capacity, reducing fuel consumption is the right thing to do. It just makes sense.

Colonel Keith Boone is the Chief of USAF Air Mobility Command’s fuel efficiency program at Scott AFB, Illinois. Col Boone is a 27-year veteran pilot with over 4,000 hours flying C-17 and C-130 aircraft.

Fuel Sense blog posts:

Fuel Sense: Every Drop Counts at FedEx Express
Fuel Sense: It Only Works When We Work Together
Two Misunderstood Words: Economical and Responsible
Fuel Sustainability: When Does it Make Sense to go Extra Thick?
Fuel Sustainability: Simple Adjustments Save Millions
How We Overcame Cultural Inertia and Saved Millions

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