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DOD Mission Success and Sustainability Go Hand-In-Hand

DOD Mission Success and Sustainability Go Hand-In-Hand

The Department of Defense sees no conflict between its primary mission – deterring war and ensuring national security – and its sustainability initiatives. In fact, the DOD Sustainability Report & Implementation Plan makes it clear that conserving natural resources, saving energy and reducing environmental impact will make the DOD stronger, more capable and more resilient in the years ahead.     

Driving sustainability and improving mission effectiveness have become more challenging for the DOD in the face of global climate change. The department has elevated climate change as a national security priority to recognize the effect of resource-scarcity on geopolitical risk and national security, and the impact of extreme weather on military readiness and warfighter safety.

With close to 3 million servicemembers and civilian employees, about 600,000 buildings on 500 bases worldwide, and countless aircraft, ships and ground vehicles of all types and sizes, the U.S. military consumes more energy than some countries and leaves a sizeable environmental footprint. As a result, even incremental performance improvements will deliver enormous operational, financial and environmental benefits given the size and scope of the DOD.

Earlier this year, the US Army held its first climate strategy focused on combating climate change and reducing greenhouse gases to net zero by 2050. The strategy further calls for a significant reduction in emissions and energy consumption at military installations, developing an all-electric, non-tactical vehicle fleet as early as 2025, developing hybrid vehicles in the Next Generation Combat Vehicle program, and the installation of microgrids at all Army bases by 2035. These ambitious goals to reduce military carbon footprint are in keeping with the executive order issued by President Biden for DoD to tackle climate change.


Military Turns to Industry Partners to Improve Fuel Efficiency

To drive meaningful improvements, the military has turned once again to its industry partners for technologies and know-how that can simultaneously enhance sustainability and mission effectiveness. Improving the fuel efficiency of military platforms is a key strategy that delivers multiple benefits.

For starters, aircraft and land vehicles that can go further – or faster – on a gallon of fuel create a more lethal force on the battlefield. They also require less support because they use less fuel. That means fewer tankers to support airborne refueling missions and shorter convoys of fuel trucks supporting forward forces, both of which create enticing targets for enemies looking to disrupt operations.

Better-performing engines can improve mission effectiveness and use less fuel. That’s the thinking behind DOD’s plans to put more fuel-efficient powerplants on B-52 bombers and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. Other aircraft and combat vehicles may follow suit before too long.

Meanwhile, improvements in combat radius and cruise speed were key performance requirements for the Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) development program. To meet those needs, Honeywell developed the groundbreaking HTS7500 engine to power DEFIANT X, the Lockheed Martin Sikorsky-Boeing entry in the FLRAA competition. The HTS7500 delivers more power but uses 18% less fuel than the Honeywell turboshaft engines currently in production.


The Future is More Sustainable and More Electric

The military is taking a cue from the civilian world by exploring the potential for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The Air Force plans to have two operational bases using at least 10% SAF blends by the end of 2025, as long as the cost is comparable to conventional fuels. Honeywell propulsion engines and auxiliary power units (APUs) can use SAF as a drop-in replacement for fossil fuels and our UOP business has developed a process to produce a green aviation fuel from renewable feedstocks.

Electric and hybrid-electric power and hydrogen fuel cells show potential for making U.S. fighting forces more resilient, effective and sustainable. The Army plans to introduce hybrid-electric combat vehicles by 2035 and fully electric tactical vehicles by 2050. These technologies are also being considered for use in various military aircraft.

More-electric propulsion engines, APUs and generators can be much cleaner, quieter[SV1] , smaller and lighter than conventional systems that burn fossil fuels. Honeywell is developing advanced technologies that will help military operators realize the benefits of greater electrification. Advancements in electric power-generation and distribution systems, fuel cells and electric propulsion systems hold enormous promise for improving mission effectiveness and sustainability.

Further down the road, we’re also looking at the potential for hydrogen fuel cells to meet some smaller power requirements on the ground and in the air. Hydrogen is extremely clean – in fact, the only byproduct of burning hydrogen is steam. But hydrogen does not have sufficient energy density and more development is needed before it can be considered a practical fuel for most defense and aerospace uses.


Meanwhile, Back at the Base

With millions of on-base residents and facilities covering more than 2.2 billion square feet, the DOD is far and away the world’s largest landlord. This distinction creates an enormous opportunity for the department to reduce energy consumption, curb greenhouse gas emissions and redeploy cost savings to operational priorities.

The department has made a strong commitment to renewable energy in recent years, including working with local utilities to install industrial-scale solar on a number of bases. Most recently, the military began working with private companies to find ways to achieve 100% carbon-free energy (CFE) on bases by 2030. Plans also call for adding additional electric vehicles to the services’ general-use fleets, which number close to 160,000 vehicles.

To reduce base energy consumption, the DOD often uses an energy savings performance contract (ESPC), which Honeywell helped pioneer. An ESPC lets the DOD generate energy savings to pay for the cost of energy-efficiency improvements. For example, we recently began the latest phase of a project at Ft. Benning, Georgia, that will reduce the base’s energy bill by $1.4 million per year.

Honeywell has successfully executed similar projects at Kunsan Air Base, Tinker Air Force Base and Rock Island Arsenal, among other locations.

The size and scale of DOD operations – at the base level and in the field – present a unique set of challenges and opportunities. Most of the department’s energy use is operational – required for training, moving and sustaining military forces and weapons platforms. These activities that cannot be compromised. Fortunately, the department’s sustainability initiatives are fully compatible, providing better training access, increasing mission readiness and enabling the capabilities to prevail in conflict and preserve the peace.

Ricky Freeman
President of Defense and Space

Ricky Freeman is the President of Defense and Space for Honeywell Aerospace. He is a former US Marine Corps aviator and Program Manager, Weapons Systems. He completed undergraduate studies at the Citadel, Military College of South Carolina and the University of South Carolina and graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton.


Ricky is a member of the Board of Directors for the Red Tails Scholarship Foundation, providing aviation training & licensing for minorities pursuing careers in aerospace. He also serves on several defense, aerospace and social justice advisory councils.