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Monday, March 31, 2003

Military Average Fuel Economy

Now we know where a lot of the $75 billion cost of the war goes:

The fuel cost numbers are startling. A gallon of modified jet fuel, which is used in tanks as well as aircraft, costs only 84 cents when bought wholesale from multinational oil companies such as Shell and ExxonMobil.

By the time the cost of transporting the fuel to the battlefield is added, that sum can rise to hundreds of dollars per gallon.

The US army says that for the campaign in Afghanistan, where there are no reliable or significant sources of fuel, the army depends on fuel flown in by helicopter from ships in the Indian Ocean. The cost per gallon: about $600.

The US army estimates it costs about $150 per gallon for fuel used in Iraq. The fuel comes from 23 US military dumps scattered across the Middle East, a number that was doubled in preparation for the current conflict.

This translates into a total fuel cost of about $60,000 per Abrams tank - assuming a distance travelled of 400km from southern Iraq to Baghdad and an average fuel consumption by the Abrams of one mile per gallon.

That last quote is almost certainly an underestimate--the M1A1 tank uses something like 5 gallons to the mile, driving the fuel cost up considerably. The article goes on to detail how the army is looking into alternative fuels and means of power, but the army will be dependent upon refuelling for years yet, and, a we've discovered in the past couple of weeks, logistics are crucial. After all, Lawrence Freedman, a professor of war studies at King's College London, writes today that:

The drama of war lies in combat but the source of victory lies in logistics.