Transforming the military : the energy imperative
Wong, Kelvin Ka Weng
Date of Issue2010
S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
Contemporary war-fighting platforms on land, sea and air are continually evolving, becoming more agile and deadly. But despite their increasing performance, one factor remains unchanged, that of a near-total dependency on oil. Oil, processed into a range of refined liquid hydrocarbon fuels, is the primary source of mobility energy for almost every combat and utility platform in any modern military force. Extensive mechanisation of military forces since the First World War has resulted in a great thirst for fuel in contemporary battlefield operations, creating significant oil logistics burdens that degrade overall battlefield performance. This problem is compounded by the fact that the global oil market is inherently uncertain, as industrialised nations vie for a guaranteed supply of oil to satisfy their economic and military needs. As a result, oil stocks are often prone to price fluctuations, stressing defence budgets as well as affecting peacetime operations and readiness. Technological solutions—in the form of alternative energy and propulsion options—are emerging but a number of challenges will need to be addressed before such technologies can be fully exploited. These challenges range from the technical—such as the immaturity of emerging technologies and their unproven operational performance—to psychological barriers preventing military leadership from effecting change to established oil-based infrastructures.
RSIS Working Paper ; 216/10