Air Force puts new tech into Forward Operating Base of the Future

The project taps alternative sources and efficient power use to reduce reliance on diesel fuel.

Forward operating bases increasingly run on technology, from communications and information systems to data analysis. But they also run on power, which leads to the other kinds of technology the Air Force plans to put to use on the battlefield.

The Service’s Forward Operating Base of the Future, currently on display at the Basic Expeditionary Airmen Skills Training, or BEAST, facility will feature tools such as smart controllers, microgrids and solar cells designed to reduce a FOB’s reliance on diesel fuel and other traditional sources, according to the Air Force Research Laboratory.

At BEAST, which is located at Joint Base San Antonio, AFRL’s Advanced Power Technology Office (APTO) adapted an existing forward training base to demonstrate how bases can cut their reliance on diesel by reducing the amount of energy used while applying alternative sources, energy storage technologies and secure smart grids.

Advanced batteries, improved HVAC units and other efficiencies are among the technologies being applied in the project, which one zone is modernized in order to give commanders resilient systems that can keep power flowing during interruptions to other zones.

By reducing reliance on diesel, which traditionally is the primary source of installation and operational power for FOBs, commanders also can reduce the need for diesel resupply missions, which can put members of a convoy at risk.

"Through renewable and advanced energy technologies, we can ensure our bases have the power to execute their missions, even when traditional energy resources are disrupted," said Air Force Secretary Deborah James, who attended the unveiling of the FOB of the Future last week. "The same technologies, self-sustaining approach, and energy-aware culture we're demonstrating here at BEAST are just as important across all our bases."

The first phase of the project, which runs until March 2017, will evaluate the likelihood of using the system at bases around the world, while teaching airmen about the importance of energy efficient energy in the field. "The location of the project provides an opportunity to educate 39,000 airmen a year on the pervasiveness of operational energy in every Air Force facet," said 1st. Lt. Jason Goins, a project engineer for the Advanced Power Technology Office.

The FOB of the Future is another in the military service’s efforts to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels through alternative energy sources and increased efficiency in how power is used. Another current example is using waste to generate power at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

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