Can You Check The Oil While You're At It?
April 12, 2003 3:34 AM   Subscribe

$400 Dollars (yes, that's four hundred) is the price per gallon of gas for our military. The cost of moving fuel to a war theater can boost its price to about $10 dollars per gallon. And if it has to be airlifted in, that price tag can reach $400 dollars a gallon or more. This story is the opening piece on this week's edition of Living on Earth on NPR. Read the transcript here, or listen via MP3 or Real Player.
posted by bluedaniel (13 comments total)
Value added vs. value subtracted. One could say that by the time an American reaches adulthood, he or she is worth well over $1,000,000, based on what they consume and the services that have gone into their upbringing. Then again, you could say that they owe $1,000,000, because they have consumed far more then they have produced.
But value requires a seller and a buyer and a market. Another way of saying it is that priceless and worthless are the same thing.
So who determines that a gallon of gasoline in the Iraqi desert is worth $400? The buyer, the seller or the market?
posted by kablam at 7:51 AM on April 12, 2003

I bet they wish right about now that the military Hummers got got better milage.
posted by ilsa at 11:38 AM on April 12, 2003

Airlifitng gas to a war zone - $400

Kicking the ass of someone bent on the destruction of your nation? Priceless.
posted by soulhuntre at 12:42 PM on April 12, 2003

Humvees? Bah, they're sippers compared to any tracked vehicle, and Abrams tanks? Fuhgeddaboutit.

It's worth pondering that there's a longstanding axiom in the military: Amateurs talk strategy; professionals talk logistics. Even before motorized vehicles armies were constrained by supply lines and the need to be fed. Alexander lost his army in the deserts of Iran because his supply ships from India were late. Patton notoriously pushed the Third Army to the absolute limit of logistics in order to break through German lines and cut off whole divisions.

One of the problems right now for the Pentagon is a many-years transition from a standing defensive army based mostly in Western Europe to a rapid reaction force able to respond flexibly to trouble spots. The Abrams wasn't really designed for these situations (like the cancelled Crusader, the original idea was stopping the Soviets at the Fulda Gap). The M1A2 is better -- older readers may recall that the M1A1 had some notorious problems, and many cavalry experts considered it unusable for offensive maneuver warfare -- but they can't really do much about the mileage. With tracked vehicles, you don't think in miles per gallon -- you think in gallons per mile. Anyway, the Abrams is the largest, heaviest main battle tank ever (they tried for fastest, around 60mph, and didn't quite make it -- 45mph is tops); some consider it the "last tank" although one can easily go broke making such bets.

The watchword today is speed and flexibility, and that means wheels. Battlefields are still rough terrain, though, so that means many wheels, a technique favored by the Russians. The prototype for the new generation of vehicles is the 8x8 Stryker Light Armored Vehicle, [specs] around which the Army is developing its Brigade Combat Team concept, which has the goal of being deployable in full brigade force to anyplace on earth in 96 hours. One of the Stryker's targets is a 300-mile range on a tank of gas. It is also deployable by C-17, which gives it several advantages: for instance, deploying to a forward fire base secured by airborne troops, rather than busting through enemy terrain. Save gas by flying over the enemy.

An interesting quasi-test of the Stryker approach was implemented by the 1st Marines in Iraq, who drove their "Amtrak" amphibious assault vehicles farther from the beach than any have ever gone before -- all the way to Baghdad.

Anyway, don't knock the Humvee: it may get low mileage, but occupants often survive land mine hits.
posted by dhartung at 12:47 PM on April 12, 2003

soulhuntre: "Airlifitng gas to a war zone - $400
Kicking the ass of someone bent on the destruction of your nation? Priceless."

kablam: "priceless and worthless are the same thing."

Yep. Dat's about the size of it.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:08 PM on April 12, 2003

Of course, dhartung, others see the LAV III for the deathtrap that it is.

The extreme weight and size of the LAV III 8x8 drivetrain make it impossible to airdrop, unlike light tracked APC's like the M113. The extreme complexity of a multiwheeled drive system means that the per-mile costs of a LAV III can be up to four times those of an M113. Because of its extreme size, almost touching the sides of a C-130 transport aircraft, the LAV III cannot be equipped with applique armor, rendering it vulnerable to machine gun fire and RPG's. What is the point of an "armored vehicle" that can be ripped apart by a machine gun?

Moreover, the "speed and flexibility" that the LAV III purportedly posesses have yet to be demonstrated in any real sense. Because of safety concerns, the LAV III's are currently disallowed from driving at speeds above those of the tracked M113. And that is on the road. Off road, none question the clearly superior spead and manuverability of tracked vehicles. As for flexibility, the tracked M113 can be airdropped, whereas the LAV III can barely even be airlifted. Some flexibility, that.

I'll rant a bit more about this if anyone bites, but for now, I'll leave it for everyone to think about.
posted by Ptrin at 8:24 PM on April 12, 2003

What do you think a dollar sign means, bluedaniel?
posted by Holden at 4:46 AM on April 13, 2003

ptrin, I'm quite sure that you can make your points without excessive use of bold, as well as phrasing unknowable pronouncements with false certainty. False certainty is a danger as we all know. Militaries throughout history have had to answer the questions of flexibility, speed, weight, armor, weaponry, protection, and cost. I'm not qualified to judge; all I know is that the Stryker multi-wheel concept was selected by the Pentagon and is the centerpiece of its new mobility strategy. But I'm sure if I put my uncertainty in bold it will all seem that much more certain.
posted by dhartung at 8:01 AM on April 13, 2003

It was just to get your attention, my dear dhartung. Also, the bolded hyperbole was admittedly a bit of parody to the site I linked, just to... pre-empt discussion of its someone ridiculous design.

While your post was a wonderful overview of the new concepts surrounding the LAV III, your entire argument was centered around a single concept:

"The watchword today is speed and flexibility, and that means wheels."

Why do you make this statement? That is the uncertainty that I am... uncertain about. For starters, anyway.
posted by Ptrin at 12:30 PM on April 13, 2003

What do you think a dollar sign means, bluedaniel?

Aside from a symbol used in censored cursing? A dollar.
posted by bluedaniel at 5:22 PM on April 13, 2003

I think Holden was calling attention to the redundancy of "$400 dollars." But that's just my .02 cents.
Which reminds me, I need to get to the ATM machine. If only I could remember my PIN number...
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:16 AM on April 14, 2003

It's amusing to see someone get huffy when their know-it-all credentials are challenged. You may return to your civil discussion now.
posted by norm at 9:54 AM on April 14, 2003

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