THE Royal Australian Navy has taken a major step towards “greening” its warships and aircraft with a new agreement that will give it access to technology being developed in the US to enable the massive American fleets to run on biofuels by 2020.
The US has set the target to ensure it can continue to use its armed forces globally as future fuel shortages start to bite and to reduce the military’s environmental footprint.
Australian forces have acknowledged they will have to adapt quickly to use the same fuels as the US military so they can continue to work with the Americans on joint operations.
A joint approach on fuels will also be vital as plans progress for increased visits to Australian bases by US warships and aircraft.
The co-operation agreement was signed yesterday aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, off Hawaii, by the RAN’s fleet commander, Rear Admiral Tim Barrett, who is responsible for all navy surface ships, submarines and aircraft. The rear admiral is both a sailor and a pilot.
Rear Admiral Barrett told The Australian he would be happy to run his warships and aircraft on alternative fuels as long as they were as fast, safe and manoeuvrable as they would be on fossil fuel, and he was confident that that would happen.
“If a ship can handle as I need it to, if it can go fast enough, if it can be at sea for the time I need it to be at sea, if it can still deliver the effect that I’m after – then the type of fuel it’s burning is not an issue for me,” he said.
Rear Admiral Barrett said technological advances would flow from the navy and the Australian Defence Force generally to industry in Australia and the US, and Australian forces could benefit from advances made, for example, in Australia’s aviation industry.
“That is a critical part. It may well be that the aviation industry allows us to share information on how they do it. Or they might benefit from the way we do things and the productive exchange of views we have with the US,” he said.