You can live for weeks without food. A week without water will leave you dead, especially if you’re exerting yourself in unfriendly conditions. More bad news: water is heavy to carry, which means it takes a lot of resources to transport. There are all kinds of very clever single-soldier solutions for purifying water, but bases and outposts will need options that can scale and produce a steady supply. The US Marines are looking for expeditionary solutions, and TerraGroup’s TECWAR will be selling them some.
Afghanistan has been a tough test for the NATO alliance. Thus far, the report is mixed. While a number of allied countries have committed troops, few of the NATO countries’ available helicopters have been committed, despite promises made and commanders’ requests from the field. Britain, the Netherlands, and the USA had contributed much of the combat helicopter support in the most active combat zones, alongside some CH-47s from non-NATO partner Australia. They’ve been supplemented by helicopters from some east bloc countries like Poland and the Czech Republic (Mi-8/17s), and by a few CH-47D Chinooks and Bell 412ERs from Canada. The sizable helicopter fleets belonging to NATO members like France, Germany, Italy, and Spain have also seen some use in Afghanistan, with the Italian contingent (currently CH-47s, NH90s and A129 attack helicopters) covering a wide area to the west. The most serious fighting, and corresponding need, remains in the south.
That has created political tensions within the alliance, especially when set against the backdrop of European shortfalls in meeting NATO ISAF commitments. At one point, the USA was forced to extend the deployment of 20 CH-47 heavy helicopters by 6 months, in order to try and make up the shortfall. With Canada and the Netherlands out of the picture after long combat deployments in the south, the situation is likely to become even more strained. Over the longer, term, however, a 2-track solution has emerged. Track one involves keeping up the pressure, and some members of NATO have responded. Track 2 has involved stanching the wound by chartering private helicopter support that can take care of more routine missions in theater, freeing the military helicopters for other tasks.
When a military family is moved abroad, what happens to their cars? That just one of the private vehicle dilemmas confronting the US military on a regular basis, as approximately 650,000 service members, family members, and civilian employees are moved each year within and beyond the USA.
American Auto Logistics (AAL) in Park Ridge, NJ operates 40 vehicle process centers and 8 long-term storage facilities in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. AAL performs logistics functions required to move privately-owned vehicles belonging to US military members from the USA to destinations OCONUS (Outside the CONtinental United States). These functions include processing, booking and shipment via GDS ocean carriers; customs inspections and agriculture clearances; and drayage and storage of the vehicles. Contracts from 2003 include:
What do a fresh look at what “logistics” means, the ongoing electronics revolution, new manufacturing techniques, and the social norms and movements arising from these trends, have in common? Within the US Army, the answer is the Rapid Equipping Force’s new Expeditionary Lab (“Ex Lab”), which incorporates and fosters those trends on the front lines of combat.
The US Army’s Retrograde, Reset, Redeployment, Redistribution, and Disposal (R4D or “Afghan retrograde”) is a huge effort, moving an estimated $17 billion of good out of country at a cost of around $6 billion. Some of its successes, and failings, offer lessons that apply much further down the chain of service, and in the commercial world.
Unmanned drones for aerial surveillance are routine now. UAV systems that can use weapons are also routine. What isn’t routine yet is cargo resupply, but the Marines were asking for it in Afghanistan. That’s no easy task, since the country’s geography really hates helicopters. Can a helicopter UAV handle Afghanistan’s high altitude terrain, and show that it has what it takes to get its cargo exactly where it needs to go? The Marines thought so. Adm. Bill Shannon, NAVAIR Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, says:
“We are trying to get this much needed capability to the warfighter as quickly as possible… By evaluating two different systems, we have the ability to accelerate development of technology and use it immediately to support the warfighter while maintaining competition.”
From its inception, the competition has been a battle between Lockheed Martin’s larger-capacity but shorter-endurance K-MAX, and Boeing’s quiet, ultra long-endurance A160T Hummingbird. K-MAX won, and the Marines’ cargo UAV experiment began. It’s still going.
Lighterage is about loading or unloading ships using lighters (barges) that can form a sort of ad-hoc ramp or shuttle from ships at anchor; they are often used when a port’s dockside is too shallow for the ship, or dockside berths are unavailable. These modules greatly expand landing options for well-equipped militaries, and may be versatile enough to be used in sea-based transfers as well. Even so, lighterage is one of those quiet enablers that rarely receives the attention it merits.
Lt. Gen. Brooks L. Bash, Director for Logistics at the Joint Staff, centered his presentation on the constraints that logistics has and will always impose on warfighting. From that perspective, for the US to pivot to the Pacific only makes things harder with the huge distances involved. New threats to the US supply routes, which by and large have not been challenged since WWII, come in varied shapes from missile profileration to swarms of small ships. From a broader macro perspective, logistical chokepoints such as the straits of Hormuz or Malacca could severely damage the economy if they become hotspots.
In his keynote, Dale Bennett, EVP of Mission Systems and Training at Lockheed Martin, listed a few things DoD and industry can do to get better results despite increased funding constraints.
First, Bennett thinks that sharing technologies across programs can not only improve interoperability, but also reduce sustainment costs, presumably thanks to shared spare parts and better familiarity (because of repeat exposure) from the people doing the maintenance. AEGIS and its various spin-offs (e.g. AEGIS Ashore) is the program that he used to illustrate this trend.