Two fighter squadrons were recognized for energy conservation efforts in October, marking the first time Naval Aviation was incorporated in the annual SECNAV Energy Award program.
The winners, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14, Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (CNAP), and VFA-131, Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (CNAL), are participants in the Aviation Energy Conservation (Air ENCON) program designed to reduce fuel consumption without adversely impacting safety or mission execution to ensure the right amount of fuel is available for sustained mission readiness. The three main pillars of the program include:
- Developing energy awareness throughout Naval Aviation
- Building a culture of innovation and sharing of best practices
- Eliminating energy-consuming inefficiencies throughout the organization
Squadrons were evaluated on total energy saved, awareness and training, and innovation.
Initiated by the Aviation Working Group within the Navy’s Task Force Energy, the integrated project team (IPT) comprises CNAP, CNAL and Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR).
The team is responsible for overseeing the programs’ development, designing an effective implementation strategy and managing sustainment of energy conservation initiatives.
Positive effects of the program can already be seen in the fleet. The Short-Cycle Mission and Recovery Tanking (SMART), for example, offers operators an option for airborne tanking operations at sea. SMART, or any of the many hybrid variations, has helped improve fuel efficiency.
Another example is MAGIC CARPET, or Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies. MAGIC CARPET is software designed to make landing on an aircraft carrier easier by maintaining a commanded glidescope and angle of attack, allowing the pilot to focus more attention on maintaining a proper line-up. CNAP and NAVAIR have accelerated this new technology for F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers, which further reduces tanking requirements and increases efficient aircraft recovery operations.
In order for Air ENCON to succeed, it requires participation from all levels of the Naval Aviation community—the type wings, air wing and squadron commanders, aircrew, maintenance crew and logistics personnel.
To help gain awareness, Fleet Energy Training Symposiums in San Diego, California; Norfolk, Virginia; Jacksonville, Florida; and Yokosuka, Japan, have educated audiences and engaged warfighting communities in open discussion.
Units deployed next year will participate in the Great Green Fleet 2016, demonstrating energy conservation measures that are consistent with operational readiness requirements during deployed operations and further exploring the potential for the operational use of biofuels.
Compiled from Naval Air Force Pacific Public Affairs article and squadron awards.
Energy Conservation Winner: WEST COAST
Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14 “Tophatters”
Total Energy Saved
Energy conservation efforts during flight operations resulted in a lower fuel burn rate (gallons per flight hour) than the historical burn rate for all 26 F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet squadrons in two of the four quarters in fiscal year 2014.
Awareness and Training
Squadron standard operating procedures limit Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) start time to 25 minutes prior to takeoff, which equates to the amount of time required to efficiently initialize aircraft systems while minimizing fuel burn while on deck awaiting takeoff.
Aircrew fly maximum range and/or endurance flight profiles during transits to and from operational training areas, minimizing fuel consumption during administrative portions of flight.
Senior aviators train, mentor and execute aggressive fuel conservation techniques to junior aviators, including fuel flow settings, airspeeds, alpha numbers, Flight Path Advisory System usage and descents using “IDLE” thrust to minimize fuel burn during administrative portions of flight.
VFA-14 aircrew briefed aerial refueling consolidation techniques to relieve airborne tankers of excessive “give” when operating at sea.
VFA-14 provided four fuel-savings ideas to the Air ENCON IPT:
- Recommended a change in the course rules for arrival and departure, which allows aircraft to remain at higher altitudes longer, a more fuel efficient flight regime
- Shut down one of the two engines while hot pit refueling
- Conduct military thrust vice afterburner thrust take offs when light loaded on fuel, such as with field carrier landing practice
- Recommended increasing the F/A-18E/F maximum trap landing weight onboard the aircraft carrier from 44,000 pounds to 48,000 pounds, which is equivalent to the EA-18G Growler.
Energy Conservation Winner: EAST COAST
Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 131 “Wildcats”
Total Energy Saved
Energy conservation efforts focused on implementing ground operation efficiencies to minimize fuel consumption during post-landing operations, hot refueling and crew switch. Reduced fuel use techniques during ground operations resulted in greater fuel availability for inflight training. In a single quarter, the squadron saved 33,000 pounds (4,800 gallons) of fuel for training, which would otherwise have been consumed on the ground.
Energy conservation efforts during flight operations resulted in a fuel burn rate (gallons per flight hour) that was lower in two of the four quarters in fiscal year 2014 than the historical burn rate for all nine F/A-18 A-D Hornet squadrons.
Awareness and Training
VFA-131 developed single-engine hot pit refueling and taxi procedures, and provided training to aircrew and ground crew in order to safely initiate the practice.
VFA-131 realized that single-engine hot pit refueling would save approximately 200 pounds (30 gallons) of fuel per aircraft per refueling operation. Additional savings would also be achieved during post-refueling taxi. These techniques resulted in a 13 percent cost per flight hour reduction in a single quarter. The F/A-18C operated by VFA-131 has redundant systems and does not require both engines to be operating to safely conduct hot pit operations.