Colonel Greg Douquet’s views on the future of battlefield energy sound neat, and one can see how these might be able to mitigate the fuel needs of electrical generators. Perhaps it’s harder to imagine what “low signature” wind and solar generating systems are. Ultimately, the idea can just sound like more kit to haul around to power some radios and laptops, but ultimately, not save all that much fuel.

Petrol-based internal combustion engines for vehicles and electricital generation are readily maintained and repaired in the field. Colonel Douquet does not appear to be advocating for alternative-energy combat and support vehicles, which use huge amounts of petrol. Those could be problematic to maintain in austere environments, and combat damage to vehicle battery packs sound pretty awful all-around.

Another way to “untether” could be to go old-school, ditching the air-conditioned operations centers, and learning to operate with less fuel or juice-using kit than we do today. Maybe the “the highly mobile and decentralized battlefield of the future” should not be constructed to require so many “supporting vehicles and load carriers…to move with and power their forces.” For unless the armed forces get away from air-conditioned and computer-laden command-and-control, and start thinking about living off the land, distributed operations are going to just have a pretty big logistics tail regardless.

Dave Foster is an engineer for Naval Air Systems Command at China Lake, California.