“He’s trying to help out an industry that’s helping out the administration in some way by paying four times as much as we would for any other fuel,” Forbes said of Mabus. “I think this is a huge boon dog on the part of the administration.”
According to a report released by the Department of Defense, the Navy would have to buy 336 million gallons of biofuel each year to satisfy the needs of the green fleet at a cost of $$1.89 billion annually. The cost of the fuel alone totals more than the cost of the ships it’s being pumped into.
“I think it is an unimaginable for me that, when were facing all these cuts in every other area, that this is the one area where the DOD would increase their spending when they have no analysis as to what the ultimate cost will be,” Forbes said.
But the Navy’s Great Green Fleet incorporates more than just ships. So far, the Pentagon has tested a 50/50 combination of biofuel and conventional jet fuel in a series of current fighters, including the F-18 Hornet. The Navy’s newest aircraft, the F-35, has yet to be tested on biofuel — and the Navy will soon be seeing a lot more of those.
On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta reaffirmed the Pentagon’s commitment to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is currently in production by Lockheed Martin.
“The F-35 represents, I believe, the future of tactical aviation for both of our armed services,” he said at a press briefing on Wednesday. The planes will make it possible to “effectively control the skies to confront the enemies of tomorrow.” (RELATED: Top five reasons the F-35 will rule the sky)
The fighter, which costs upwards of $1 trillion, has been the source of major controversy at the Pentagon — and is only proven to fly with conventional jet fuel. So far, the Navy has committed to purchasing 27 of the planes from Lockheed Martin by 2016 — the same time the green fleet will set sail. By 2017, the Navy will have a grand total of 41 fighters.
Lockheed Martin continues to test the aircraft running on conventional jet fuel, said Bob Rubino, program director for the F-35 in Lockheed Martin’s Washington, D.C., office.
Once the plane is fully certified, it will be up to the Navy to decide to test it using biofuel.
Mabus’ Great Green Fleet is currently being paraded around at the Rim of the Pacific exercise, with demonstrations taking place on Wednesday.