Energy Innovation To Improve Warfighter Capabilities
by Jim Garamone, DOD News
September 26, 2022
During a week in September 2022, the
Pentagon's central courtyard resembled a giant science fair
featuring the newest energy saving technology impressing Deputy
Defense Secretary Kathleen H. Hicks by what this means for energy
conservation and warfighters.
September 21, 2022 - Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen H. Hicks tours the Pentagon’s Energy Expo, which showcases emerging energy technologies to advance the combat capabilities of the Joint Force. (Image
created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Department of Defense photos by Lisa Ferdinando.)
demonstrations in the courtyard were part of the Pentagon Energy
Expo and featured contractors, Defense Department agencies, research
labs and more. Hicks took reporters on a lightning tour of the
courtyard and then spoke about the need for such innovation.
The deputy secretary has championed innovation in her many tours
around the department and with contractors. "I have been to a number
of sites — DOD and non-DOD — throughout the country to look at
similar displays," she said. "And I think just in general, I'm
really blown away always by the incredible innovation that's
happening in the United States; and we in DOD want [and] need to be
a part of that."
Hicks saw a drone that ran on hydrogen, a
tactical autonomous vehicle, a rechargeable expeditionary power
source, and a tactical electrification kit in her walk around the
courtyard. She passed exhibits that touted new methods of battery
recharging, hydrogen fuel cells, solar cells and more.
said energy innovation "has to do with national security and what it
takes to have the capabilities we need for the warfighter today and
going forward. That alignment with climate goals is excellent for
that her philosophy is that it's not enough to simply save energy; a
project must bring benefits to those on the front lines. At the
electrification kit exhibit, she noted that the process saved fuel
and allowed the vehicle to run more quietly and with a decreased
"So, I would just point out that mission alignment,
the warfighter purpose, and the view of climate as a national
security challenge are fully aligned in cases like this," she said.
The department is examining every aspect of energy from the
tactical to strategic. This means more than simply an engine that
uses less fuel, but the "on-shoring" of microchips to ensure the
United States has the capabilities needed to distribute power. For
deployed forces, this could mean power from solar panels or wind
turbines. Hydrogen fuel cells could be adapted.
look at developing batteries that last longer and are lighter. These
could give military capabilities longer loiter times and greater
ranges, she said. They can also develop electric micro-grids for
deployed forces or for bases.
Hicks gave one concrete
example featuring the venerable KC-135 refueling aircraft. "If we're
able to save about five percent efficiency on aircraft, let's just
say, — and that's something that we're working on now with drag
reduction efforts on our KC 135 — that's the equivalent of an entire
aircraft's worth of fuel, just if you looked at a fleet of 20," she
said. "That's one fewer tanker that we need to fly."
could mean big savings — both economically and ecologically: about
$35 million a year and a 125-kiloton reduction in greenhouse gas
emissions, she said.
This entails a cultural change in the DOD, she said. "How do we make
sure that folks understand demand reduction is fully aligned with,
and supportive of, warfighter needs?" she asked.
Part of the
answer could be found in a May memo she sent to the force directing
the department "to prioritize energy demand reduction in all new
systems acquisitions and upgrades to existing systems," she said.
"As I said, it's good for the climate, but more important than
anything here in the Department of Defense, it is essential for our
editing without impacting facts.
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