December 07, 2011

In Remembering Pearl Harbor, Brief Thoughts about Energy and War Fighting Capability

At a briefing yesterday before the Defense Energy Security Caucus,
Admiral Philip Cullom, director of the Navy’s Energy and Environmental
Readiness Division, spoke to the Navy’s energy security efforts as enhancing
the Navy’s war fighting capabilities. And really, that’s what the Navy’s and
the other services’ efforts are all about – increasing operational effectiveness
through energy efficiency, conservation and innovation. It’s important to
remember this point because the choices the services are making in their energy
security strategies reflect new technologies and requirements that bolster, not
detract from, mission effectiveness. The Navy, for example, would not support the
development of alternative liquid fuels that compromise the performance of its
air or ship fleet. The choices they make must serve their war fighting

In his remarks yesterday, Admiral Cullom reminded the
audience that the Navy has a history of doing this very well. In April 1942,
several months after the attacks against Pearl Harbor, Lieutenant
Colonel James Doolittle orchestrated a counterattack against Tokyo using a
fleet of B-25s launched from the deck of the aircraft carrier Hornet
. But the Navy had never done this before, and didn’t know if it
could: the carrier runways were too short for the heavy B-25s to takeoff, and
it was unclear if they could carry enough fuel for the aviators to reach allied
forces in China safely. So, as Admiral Cullom reminded the audience, Doolittle
stripped the B-25s of every non-essential piece in the aircraft, making the B-25
lighter and thus more fuel efficient, extending its range several hundred miles
so that the aviators could hit their targets and fly to China. It was a
successful war-time demonstration of how making air platforms more efficient
could enhance the military’s war fighting capability in ways that in the months
before seemed impossible.