Safety, fuel savings eyed in base of the future

Local teams involved in $3.4M test project.

The Air Force Research Laboratory and the University of Dayton Research Institute set up a $3.4 million forward operating base to demonstrate the prototype concept at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas, the place enlisted recruits undergo Air Force boot camp.

“Essentially, our goal with this is to integrate technologies that allowed us to reduce our demand for diesel and integrate technologies that allowed us to generate electricity on site so we could reduce that (energy) demand,” said Lt. Col. Scott Fitzner, a project leader assigned to the AFRL Materials and Manufacturing Directorate at Wright-Patterson.

Fitzner said one out of every eight U.S. service members killed or wounded in Iraq between 2003 to 2007 was assigned to a unit transporting fuel in the war zone. Another 3,000 service members were killed or wounded in Afghanistan on similar duty, he said.

“Basically, what we’ve learned over both Iraq and Afghanistan, is that we spend a lot of resources and human capital transporting fuel into these forward operating locations and it’s not always a very safe or easy endeavor to embark on,” he said.

Part of the project’s purpose is to emphasize an “energy aware culture” to more than 30,000 boot camp trainees every year, said Will Lauwers,s a UDRI research engineer.

“We’re demonstrating these particular technologies have great potential for fuel savings for the Air Force,” Lauwers added.

In a one-year demonstration through next March, the prototype forward-deployed camp uses power-producing solar panels that double as shades over large half-circular tents, trades incandescent light bulbs for more energy efficient light-emitting diode bulbs, and taps batteries to store energy to lower reliance on diesel fuel-powered generators. The camp adds extra insulation inside tents and has a more rugged heating and cooling system in environmental extremes.

“We first always look to make the equipment or the location as energy efficient as possible so we can reduce demand,” Fitzner said.

The prototype is part of the Basic Expeditionary Airmen Skills Training, or BEAST, site at Lackland. Recruits complete one-week of field training at BEAST.

The military’s “basic operating procedure was to assume energy was infinite,”said 1st Lt. Jason Goins, a project research engineer.

The camp is meant to change that mindset. “It’s this cultural shift saying energy isn’t infinite,” he said.

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