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Point of Need Solutions Workshop

This article is replacing an article that was publsihed in 2010, but has since been deleted (inavertently I hope) from the site.

At the Hybrid Airships for Heavy Lift conference in Maryland at the end of March, the US Military Commands for Europe, Africa and Transportation mentioned that they were holding an industry solutions workshop to discuss Point of Need Delivery (POND).  The workshop was planned for 20-22 April 2010, in Stuttgart, Germany.
Despite the extensive travel disruption caused by the volcano in Iceland, the workshop went ahead.  The hosts implemented telephone and video conferencing facilities for those industry, Department of Defence and service personnel who were unable to attend in person (about 50% of the planned attendees used the phone facilities). 
The Workshop was a scenario based event, which was looking for near, mid and long-term solutions from industry to address the following need:

“...a capability to disembark a task-organised, ready-to-employ brigade-sized (or equivalent) unit to or from a point-of-need within 3-5 days, independent of receptive infrastructure”

Day one was planned to introduce the problem, explain existing chokepoints in the supply pipeline for a baseline scenario, then for industry to present their solutions.  Day two was planned to separate into 2 workgroups each comprising industry and military representatives, intended to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the solutions offered; day three was intended to sketch out a Concept of Employment (CONEMP) for the most suitable offerings.  Travel chaos did cause some slippage in schedule, but the framework was generally followed.

Presentations from industry included both aviation and sealift solutions.  The aviation solutions were clearly divided between heavier-than-air proposals and lighter-than-air (or hybrid) solutions.  The heavier-than-air proposals included conventional vehicles, such as the Boeing C17B and the EADS A400M, and tilt-wing/rotorcraft vehicles such as the Bell/Boeing tilt-wing or the US Army’s Joint Heavy Lift proposal .  There was also a series of lighter than air offerings, ranging from Lockheed Martin, with a 500 ton payload hybrid airship, Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) with a 200 ton offering, Wordwide Aeros with details of their R& D Programme in compression technologies and Rigid Airships, to SAIC with a more conventional LTA offering based on proven LTA technologies .  Boeing Phantom Works also offered a longer term solution based on a solar powered/fuel-cell augmented Roziere airship designed to fly in excess of 30,000 ft, but had no presentation to back it up. 

Industry presentations were not in detail, as (had things gone to plan) many competitors would have been present, nor were the industry presentations available to industry participants for review.

One workgroup regarded the LTA offerings up to 200 ton payload as medium term solution, with  payloads greater than 200 tons being  a long-term solution; the group then concentrated on defining Key Performance Parameters (KPPs) and Key System Attributes (KSAs) for a potential solution.  The second workgroup regarded LTA as a medium term solution based upon a statement from HAV that current materials technology would permit a 200 ton payload to be built and certified within 48 months of a contract.  HAV   believed that a 500 ton payload vehicle would require further materials development.  (Note: Lockheed Martin was not available to ask whether they had already completed that material development).  Given the time constraints on the exercise, it was decided to develop an outline CONEMP for a generic 200 ton payload LTA Vehicle (as being the minimum viable solution for the US Military’s requirement), in conjunction with existing airlift capabilities.  The outline CONEMP was based on limited/incomplete information, and the team is expecting to have clarifications from industry on questions that had been raised during the workshop.  Further experimentation needs to be completed before the core team can validate their findings, refine the CONEMP and draw conclusions from which to progress.  

The Concept of Employment outlined by Workgroup two permitted the successful deployment of a brigade-sized unit to an austere environment, within the timescales of the scenario.  However, a number of other issues were raised including; survivability of LTA vehicles; optimum pipeline balance between speed of delivery (but small loads) and large loads (but delivered slowly); doctrinal issues and inter-service differences between US military organisations.  

The US Military has also published some research into the issues surrounding evolution of planned loads.  Transportation platform developers need to be keenly aware that the ground combat vehicles that need to be transported will evolve to meet the combat threat; this will change the maximum exterior dimensions, and weight of the vehicles to be transported.  Increasing dimensions of payloads may well favour an LTA Solution for strategic transportation in the mid/long term, as the size of the payload modules, and the entry/exit mechanisms outlined by industry at the workshop made allowance for outsize loads.

The US core team now need to collate all the information from the workshop, validate the solutions, and run some further tests before producing their final report on the POND Capabilities Solutions Workshop.

Note:  Point of Need was defined as within 25 kilometres of the activity to be supported (either military or humanitarian).


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