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Updating Air Force war planning for spares support.


There is an old axiom that war plans are built to fight the last war instead of the next war. Never has that been truer than in the concepts and assumptions currently used in current war plans to provide supply support. In fact current plans do not even include a logistics annex that describes how the Air Force intends to provide wartime spares support. Wartime planning factors as outlined in the War Mobilization Plan (WMP) provide the basic planning factors used to compute readiness spares packages (RSP). The logistics planning factors contained within the WMP have remained unchanged since the Cold War days and do not mirror how the Air Force actually operates. The Air Force has implemented enterprise supply chain processes and an enterprise organization that affects how the Air Force provides spares support for contingencies. These changes improve contingency support and have the potential for reducing the Air Force spares budget requirement. The changes are both efficient and effective and need to be reflected in the war planning documents.

Past Studies and Actual Operations

The Air Force has been conducting analyses for the last 6 years under an initiative called RSP Evolution. There have been numerous studies suggesting improvements to the way the Air Force computes spares requirements and provides supply support to contingencies. Many of those studies reflect concepts the Air Force developed and implemented to support war efforts in Southwest Asia. In this section, we summarize the studies that have a beating on supply wartime planning assumptions.

Perhaps the biggest change is the use of all Air Force spares to support contingencies. This includes both primary operating spares (POS) and RSP spares. Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield identified the need for spares beyond those contained in RSPs. The operations tempo (sortie rate and duration) as well as the required aircraft availability at contingency locations dictated the need for additional spares. To augment RSPs, the Air Force developed contingency high priority mission support kits (CHPMSK), (1) which optimally reallocates POS from other using bases to support contingencies. The Air Force war requirements computation model, the Aircraft Sustainability Model, was used to determine range and depth of CHPMSKs based on actual operations factors needed for the applicable contingency. Using enterprise wide spares changed

the concept from war reserve spares kits (WRSK) to RSPs. Under the old WRSK concept (until the early 1990s), war spares were to be locked up (required colonel level approval to be released from the WRSK and used for peacetime to fill mission capable [MICAP] back orders only) and only used for the first 30 days of a contingency. Spares in RSPs would be used to support peacetime readiness, since any contingency needed mission capable aircraft on day 1. So the war spares were part of Air Force-wide spares that were to be used when and where they were most needed, but still packaged for easy deployment.

AFLMA Report LS200700800, RSP Evolution: Follow-On Support (FOS) carried the concept one step further. The study recommended that RSP levels be computed based on the first 20 days and that the Readiness Based Leveling (RBL) system would optimally allocate the remaining 10 days of levels along with the worldwide peacetime levels to the bases with the most need.

The concept of computing RSP levels to provide support for the first 20 days resulted from actual resupply times during contingency operations over the past 15 years. Improved supply chain management operations have decreased resupply times to contingency locations. The Air Force Global Logistics Support Center (AFGLSC) now performs the supply backshop functions (such as stock control, weapon system management, requirements, leveling and spares packages transfer and allocations). The regional supply squadrons (the major command predecessors to the AFGLSC) had set up preexisting contingency accounts which allowed immediate accounting and replenishment (resupply) transactions. At the August 2011 RSP Evolution meeting the AFGLSC personnel indicated they no longer had preestablished accounts. The AFGLSC should reinstate this capability. The Air Force also established the policy to provide airlift resources for immediate RSP replenishment.

AFLMA Report LR201109404, Contingency Resupply Times documents that most contingency resupply times average less than 20 days and recommends the Air Force use variable resupply times in computing RSPs. (2) AFLMA and Logistics Management Institute briefings in May 2007 to the RSP Evolution Working Group showed the potential reduction in gross requirements (authorized RSP levels) cost from reducing resupply times for RSPs. For example, for the F-16, 20-day kits had 97 percent of the range, 87 percent of the depth, and 64 percent of the cost of 30-day RSPs. For the F-16 the estimated gross requirements reduction was $158M (36 percent of the F-16 fleet RSP value of $440M).

The AFGLSC and its enterprise-wide concept also provides the capability to use RSPs as spares to allocate when and where most needed. No longer do RSPs have to be tied to a unit and only employed with the unit that possesses the RSP. AFLMA Report LR201110400, Allocating B-1 Spares Analysis of Mission Impact used the Readiness Based Leveling model to optimally allocate (segment) RSP levels (not RSPs, but their levels) to the three B-1 bases (two home stations and one contingency location) to provide priority support for the contingency location without significantly reducing home station support.

Two other AFLMA Reports LS200530500, Including RSP Levels in CHPMSK for Sustainment Support and LS200700802, RSP Evolution: Determining Whether or Not to Retain RSP at the Contingency Base After Transitioning to Sustainment provide various options to support contingency sustainment operations (rotation of aircraft to and from the contingency location) that use both RSP and POS spares.

The AFLMA also provided reports for consumable spares support. AFLMA Reports LR200703100, Develop Business Rules for Consumable Readiness Spares Packages and LR201112600, Customer Oriented Leveling Technique (COLT) Leveling for Contingency Bases provide rules for determining consumable levels for contingency bases. Consumable readiness spares packages (CRSP) provide support for the initial deployment phase, CHPMSK levels augment the CRSP capability for the initial and build-up phases, (3) and peacetime COLT-computed levels provide additional support during the sustainment phase.

AFLMA Reports LR200725300, Spares Enterprise Assessment Model, and LR201015403, Enterprise Assessments for Non-Airborne Mobility Readiness Spares Packages realizes the concept of enterprise spares use and recommends the Air Force use all available spares to assess its combat capability. The two reports document models that were developed to assess spares capability based on (1) base-only spares, and (2) Air Force-wide spares. The report recommended enterprise assessments be used for Status of Readiness and Training System (SORTS) and that eventually, the AFGLSC should provide SORTS reporting for spares.

Current War Planning Assumptions. We describe logistics assumptions (4) currently used to compute and employ RSPs, and then compare them to actual contingency operations and to current Air Force policy. There is no logistics annex in the current War Mobilization Plan (WMP); the factors that are used are remnants of past WMPs (1990s). Table 1 lists the current planning assumptions.

The first planning assumption is that RSP spares will provide the only support during the first 30 days of a new contingency. After 30 days, some other (unnamed) group of spares will provide support. A 30-day RSP means the replenishment pipeline takes 30 days to provide a replacement part. Hence, the assumption is no resupply in the first 30 days. Planning assumptions do not consider the possibility to augment the RSP with additional spares from other sources; either RSP or POS. Thus, the deployed squadron is assumed to be self-sufficient. Yet most RSPs consist of spares that are to be removed and replaced, so RSP levels assume the contingency location will not have repair capability.

These assumptions are used to compute RSPs and they are also used to assess the Air Force's capability to support contingency taskings. The SORTS rating determines a squadron's warfighting capability for spares based only on the spares at the home base with no resupply, no spares from other sources, and no maintenance capability for repair.

Finally, RSPs are built based on operational factors (sortie rate and duration) that seldom match the actual contingency or the expectations of the operational commanders in terms of targeted aircraft availability. In addition, most RSPs are computed as a stand-alone package of spares; yet in many cases, operations plans call for deployment of multiple squadrons to a single location. For example, three different bases (with 24 aircraft each) could be sending F-16s to the same location, with each bringing their own RSPs--that would be overkill. The composition (range and depth) of an RSP would be different (much smaller) for a base with 72 aircraft than 3 bases with 24 aircraft. A base with 72 aircraft would need a smaller level of spares because there are more aircraft to cannibalize parts from. Assuming a direct support objective of 83 percent (20 mission capable aircraft out of 24, or 60 out of 72), the single bases with 24 aircraft would only have 4 aircraft to cannibalize, while the 72 (primary aircraft authorized (PAA) base would have 12 aircraft. There would also be economies of scale. For example if an item's expected demand was 33 percent for a contingency period, the computation may well stock 1 in each 24 PAA RSP, but it would then stock 1 for the 72 PAA RSP.

Actual Logistics Contingency Operations. Table 2 outlines logistics concepts actually used to support recent and current Air Force contingencies.

In the 1990s, the Air Force implemented a spare is a spare policy and changed the name of the spares kit to readiness spares package to denote that the Air Force will use all spares (both peacetime and wartime)

to best meet mission requirements. RSP spares are available to support peacetime training and readiness needs, and all spares are available to meet contingency needs. This means Air Force capability should include all spares worldwide, not just spares the tasked squadron possesses. POS spares are used to augment RSPs. Spares to support a contingency can (and do) come from any base worldwide, not just the tasked bases.

Thus, RSP spares provide initial spares support and are enhanced by POS spares in the form of CHPMSK. The RSPs can (and do) remain through build-up to employment, and finally for sustainment support. RSPs no longer are packaged and locked away for use only in the first 30 days of a contingency. CHPMSKs augment the RSP to provide additional support tailored to the specific contingency (for example, to support deployed maintenance capability, higher targeted availability rates, or different sortie rates and durations).

The Air Force also implemented a policy that airlift would be provided for aircraft grounding items; that is, RSPs would be replenished via airlift. Additionally, the AFGLSC should have preestablished SBSS accounts that allow replenishment requisitions almost immediately upon transfer to a previously nonoperational contingency base. If the deployed unit has communications capability, it has the capability to submit RSP replenishment requisitions. In fact, Air Force policy places contingency replenishment requisitions near the top of the repair and release list (spares priority release sequence). (5) As a result the average resupply time for contingency RSPs has been 20 days or less (6) for area of responsibility locations, Pacific Air Force (PACAF) In-Place RSPs (IRSP), and most other contingency locations in both the initial build-up (days 0 through 30) and employment phases (days 30 through 180), as well as enduring bases in the sustainment phase (day 180 and beyond).

Today's assumption of unit self-sufficiency understates the true capability and motivates the wrong behavior. The Air Force uses worldwide spares to support contingency operations, so the Air Force is actually capable of launching more aircraft than the number projected by just using spares in the unit's RSP or at the unit's base. Reporting readiness based on local assets motivates managers to own their spares and retain them, sometimes to the detriment of the overall Air Force, especially if SORTS is used as a job performance metric. Squadron managers would be reluctant to redistribute spares from their RSP to fill higher priority requirements (MICAP or an active contingency requirement) because it could reduce their performance metric.

The AFGLSC can and does robust RSPs from worldwide stock prior to deployment, replenishes stock immediately upon deploying to contingency operations, redistributes assets, and reallocates levels to support contingencies. So, the Air Force has the capability to ship RSPs and spares where they are most needed. The Air Force should assess its capability to meet contingency taskings using all available assets and report that enterprise capability in SORTS. The AFGLSC is currently providing enterprise assessments for spares, but bases are still doing individual SORTS reporting. The AFGLSC is responsible for the supply chain and therefore should produce and submit SORTS reports and take corrective action to ensure the highest possible Air Force readiness (by expediting repair or buy actions on enterprisewide pacing items).

A logical extension of this concept is that the AFGLSC supply chain managers should decide what RSPs and what additional spares will be used to initially support contingencies. It is possible that the best RSP to support a contingency may not be the RSP supporting the squadron that is deploying. Other RSPs may be closer (easier to airlift to the contingency) or more robust (better able to support the contingency mission).

The Air Force has also provided maintenance support to contingency operations. There are consolidated repair facilities in-theater or moved to a nearby theater. Contingency bases have established phase maintenance and scheduled (isochronal [ISO]) maintenance. These maintenance capabilities reduce the supply chain (on-base or in-theater maintenance pipelines are normally shorter than depot maintenance pipelines), thereby reducing the amount of spares needed in an RSP. However, on-base or in-theater maintenance requires supply support for the subindenture parts required to perform repairs. The Air Force computes and employs CRSPs to support contingency maintenance operations. Additional spares support packages would be needed for reparable shop replacement unit reparables.

Proposed New Logistics Planning Assumptions

Figure 1 displays the proposed timeline and concept for logistics support to contingencies and provides the basic assumptions for war planning.

Figure 1 provides a timeline for providing spares support for contingencies. From the operations tasking at D-x, the lead command and AFGLSC will identify the RSP to transfer to the contingency account. Resupply will start immediately and the additional requirements for the specific contingency will be determined and spares (other RSP or CHPMSK levels) sourced to meet the need. As soon as feasible, maintenance will deploy to reduce the supply chain and the Air Force peacetime leveling models will be used to sustain spares support.


Table 3 summarizes the current wartime planning factors compared to actual concepts in use.

The first assumption is that RSPs are readiness spares and the Air Force should use all spares--both wartime and peacetime--to support the Air Force mission. Wartime spares should be used to ensure the Air Force is ready to fight and peacetime spares should be used to improve wartime capability. The Air Force should assess their capability to go to war and sustain the war operations tempo using all available spares. That is the way the Air Force fights and should be the way they assess their capability to fight.

The second assumption is to include immediate establishment of resupply capability, thereby providing resupply times of less than 30 days. The Air Force should have some 30-day RSPs for remote location contingencies, but have a default resupply time of 20 days for most tactical RSPs. So resupply times can be variable; some RSPs will be built with 30-day pipelines and others with 20 days. Also, items within an RSP can have variable resupply times. Most will have 20 days, while some items (such as outsized or hazardous items) can have 30-day resupply times. Airlift will be provided for mission grounding weapon system replenishment requisitions. The Air Force will assign the appropriate priorities to ensure prompt repair and transport of RSP replenishment spares.

Wartime support will come from enterprise-wide resources (all spares are available to meet operational needs). SORTS reporting must consider Air Force-wide spares. RSPs will be augmented with POS initially in the form of CHPMSKs. Thus, the RSPs do not have to be built for the worst case, but can be built for the most likely case. The POS spares will accommodate contingency scenarios that create requirements different than the planning factors used to compute the RSP. RSPs will provide support throughout the contingency, not just the first 30 days. Spares packages will be required for contingency maintenance operations to include CRFs and on-base maintenance (phase, ISO). CRSPs will be built as needed to support contingencies and maintenance packages.

As soon as feasible (when past demands are indicative of future demand at the contingency base; sufficient demand history and mission stability), the Air Force will establish peacetime (non-RSP, non-CHPMSK) levels at the contingency base. The normal peacetime spares levels (both consumable and reparable spares) will be based on actual operational demand and operations tempo and levels will be updated in conjunction with worldwide POS levels. Table 4 outlines the spares support for the three phases of the contingency.

Additionally, the planning factors must consider the availability of maintenance to include on-base (line and backshop) and in-theater. This will reduce the need for line replaceable units, but also require shop replaceable and consumable parts packages.

RSPs are enterprisewide assets and are not squadron-owned. Thus, RSPs may remain at the contingency base even though the squadron that deployed the RSP has rotated home. The AFGLSC will determine how best to support the contingency location using RSPs, CHPMSKs, CHPMSK +, segmented RSPs, or POS levels. Table 5 outlines the options the AFGLSC has for providing spares support.

Each option has varying considerations. Most reduce airlift. All but options 4 and 5 (that use RBL levels only) recognize the higher priority of the contingency base and provide levels at least equal to home base support. Many of these options (options 1, 2, 4 and 5) were developed because of the requirement for squadrons to report SORTS. That requirement causes increased airlift (rotating RSPs) or reduces supply support Air Force-wide or at the contingency base. Options 3 and 6 consider RSP levels as enterprise assets not owned by a specific squadron. Nonetheless all 6 options can be (and have been) applied to support contingencies.

Potential Additional Planning Factors

There are five additional factors and concepts to consider for war planning. These factors may not be ready for prime time, but should be studied further for future implementation.

* Regional RSPs. An enterprise system combined with a spare is a spare policy lends itself to computing wartime spares requirements from an enterprise perspective and stocking the spares regionally; similar to prepositioned war readiness materiel. We recommend considering a regional kit concept where spares are stocked at (peacetime) bases that employ the applicable weapon systems, but the spares are not assigned to a particular squadron. The concept is to compute and create tailored RSPs needed for the specific contingencies and deploy them when needed. Some of the RSPs could be prepackaged into flyaway bins based on an expected operational scenario. Other spares would be stored for easy access to put into flyaway bins when needed (for example low demand items where one spare per regional kit, rather than one in every individual RSP. Logistics planners would size an RSP for deployment planning based on the expected operational scenario. This is the concept currently planned for the F-35 wartime spares. This concept will reduce the overall spares requirement and allow for the optimal allocation of spares in both peacetime and contingencies.

* Offsetting wartime requirements with available POS. Assume an item has a constant (no variability) demand of 1 per sortie and the peacetime sortie rate is 1 per day. The peacetime requirement would be 1 per day. Now assume the wartime sortie rate for the same item is 2 per day. If demand is 1 per sortie and there are 2 wartime sorties, then the wartime requirement is 2 per day. Using this scenario and today's business rules, the total requirement would be computed as 3 (1 POS plus 2 wartime) per day, when the actual requirement would be no more than 2. So the question becomes, how many additional spares should the Air Force buy over and above its peacetime requirements to meet its wartime needs? Consider another example. An item has a constant peacetime demand of 1 per 2 sorties. Given the same sortie rates (1 per day in peacetime and 2 in wartime), should the Air Force buy 2 spares or will the 1 bought based on the peacetime requirement meet the total Air Force need? Finally, consider an item with no demands (a nonoptimized item). Should the Air Force buy 1 spare for every RSP? What if there are peacetime spares as well? The point is the Air Force could offset the wartime requirement with peacetime spares. In fact, the Air Force does this for units that fight in place by employing an enterprise concept. That is, if a fight-in-place unit has a total wartime requirement (TWR) of 6 for an item, then the demand-based RBL level at the applicable base is used to fill a portion of the TWR, thereby reducing the wartime requirement for the item. To illustrate further, see Figure 2.

Today the Air Force computes the wartime requirement for RSPs as completely additive to the peacetime spares requirement. If an aircraft is flying wartime sorties it is not flying peacetime sorties; therefore, spares computed and allocated for peacetime can be used to meet the wartime sortie requirement. If demand were constant at 1 per sortie, then the Air Force currently would compute and buy 20 wartime spares in addition to the 10 it has for peacetime. Certainly there are other considerations--some portion of the peacetime stocks may be in the pipeline and therefore may not be available to meet contingency response times. But there is an efficiency opportunity to reduce the overall requirement for spares by offsetting some portion of the contingency requirement with peacetime spares.

* Determining the Required Number of RSPs. Currently the Air Force has an RSP for every war-tasked squadron, but at least for some weapon systems, the most taxing operational scenario does not require all squadrons at one time. Again, the current planning implications are that all squadrons are self-sufficient and the RSPs are "squadron owned." With enterprise management of RSPs (and RSP spares), all squadrons do not need an RSP--the enterprise supply chain manager can provide an RSP from worldwide sources when and where it is needed.

* War Plan Requirements. Closely related to the number of RSPs concept, the Air Force should consider its actual operational planning beddown plans for computing RSPs. For example, an operation plan (OPLAN) may plan for 3 squadrons to deploy to one base (with 18 PAA). Currently, the Air Force computes 3 (18 PAA RSPs) which have a different (smaller) range and depth than 1, 54-PAA RSE For example, the value of an actual 18 PAA F-16 RSP is $7.5M, so three F-16 18 PAA kits cost $22.5M and the value of a 54 PAA F-16 RSP is $12.4M. Computing RSPs to meet OPLAN requirements could result in significant spares requirements reductions.

* Maintenance Planning Factors. The Air Force is in the process of transforming its maintenance capability with a program called Repair Network Initiative. Historically, there have been little or no maintenance assumptions in the WMP. Most RSPs contain spares that are remove and replace, implying the contingency location does not have backshop repair capabilities. However, current contingencies have deployed maintenance; CRFs are established to do ISO, phase maintenance, tire build-up and backshop maintenance capability. In many cases, the Air Force is manned for maintenance to deploy backshop capability (for support after 30 days) for every squadron--again assuming squadron self-sufficiency. However, that is not the way the Air Force has operated in recent contingencies. For example, if the Air Force were to deploy 10 F-16 squadrons, the Air Force would not need to establish 10 F-16 engine shops, each with all the equipment and resources needed to perform engine repairs. Instead, the Air Force would develop a network or centralized repair capability to support the 10 squadrons. It is these types of concepts that should be included in the WMP.

To fully implement these additional planning factors, the Air Force would need to manage all (both peacetime and wartime) spares for the entire enterprise. As stated earlier, we recommend the Air Force assess its spares readiness by using all enterprise-wide assets. The AFGLSC is currently conducting enterprise assessments and providing the results to the bases for their input to SORTS. This is a start; however, there is no guidance on how the squadrons would use the enterprise assessments. For example, if enterprise assets are available to increase a squadron's S rating, do they increase their rating; do they use the enterprise capability for commander's comments? The AFGLSC should provide SORTS reports for spares capability; after all, they are responsible and have control over the supply chain. The bases have no control over the allocation of assets. Spares SORTS reports should not be used to measure a base or squadron's performance.

The Air Force is in the process of developing tools to assess logistics readiness capability for all commodities (spares, engines, fuel, munitions) for the various operational war plans. It is important the Air Force use the same logic to assess spares capability for the OPLANs as is used for SORTS. Note the assessment results will be different because the operational scenario is different, but the logic to assess and use enterprise-wide resources should be the same.



The Air Force now has the organization, systems, and processes to manage supply support for contingencies as an enterprise, thereby providing the opportunity to reduce cost and improve mission support. Available logistics concepts, many already in use, need to be documented and included in Air Force war plans, and used to determine the number and composition of RSPs.

Douglas J. Blazer, PhD, DAF


(1.) See the following reports.

Captain Steve Martinez, Captain David Spencer, et al., Criteria for Approval, Update, and Validation of Contingency High Priority Mission Support Kits, AFLMA Report LS200030002, Maxwell AFB-Gunter Annex, Alabama: Air Force Logistics Management Agency, October 2001.

Captain Andy Hunt, et al., Implementation of Standard Supply Procedures at Long-Term Contingency Locations, AFLMA Report LS200120400, Maxwell AFB-Gunter Annex, Alabama: Air Force Logistics Management Agency, October 2001.

(2.) The AFLMA is currently documenting a similar resupply time analysis for the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) In-Place Readiness Spares Packages (IRSP). This second analysis resulted in the same conclusions as the cited report; the average resupply time for all but one PACAF base RSP was 20 days or less.

(3.) For non-Air Force-managed consumable items, there is no real difference between CHPMSK, HPMSK or CRSP. They are all contingency levels that increase the overall requirement. For Air Force-managed items, a CHPMSK is nonadditive. The levels are allocated from the worldwide requirement.

(4.) We use the term's current assumptions, which is not to be confused with current actual processes.

(5.) The only requisitions prioritized higher than Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) coded replenishment requisitions are JCS-coded MICAP requisitions. JCS project-coded contingency replenishment requisitions are prioritized higher than home base (non-JCS-coded) MICAPs.

(6.) See Doug Blazer, PhD, et al., Contingency Resupply Times for Readiness Spares Packages (RSP), AFLMA Report LR201109404, Maxwell AFB-Gunter Annex, Alabama: Air Force Logistics Management Agency, July 2011.

RELATED ARTICLE: Pipeline purdah and the barbed-wire strand.

In Moslem countries purdah is seclusion from the public of female assets. Pipeline purdah is when assets such as new aircraft and spares or personnel are unavailable because they are intransit.

For the British in the Second World War, this became a critical condition with the fall of France in June 1940. Until the Italians entered the war in that month and the Middle East became a theater of war, transit delays were only a matter of days between Britain and forces in France. But once the Italians closed the Mediterranean, the 6000 miles from the United Kingdom or the US to Egypt became a 3 to 6 month matter.

This was especially critical in the early years of the war before production and purchase of provisions had reached such wartime equilibrium levels that the pipeline was full and supplies flowed out the far end at about the same speed as they were pumped in.

Wartime equilibrium refers to that short period at the peak between rearmamental instability and demobilizational instability when the war economy has been fully developed and crisis has been accepted as the norm. The other equilibrium is peacetime when money rather than time dominates.

In the case here, pipeline purdah was critical since the Middle East had not been envisioned in prewar days as a theater of war. Thus, it was essentially garrisoned to a peacetime colonial level and was short of everything from men and supplies to the invisible infrastructure of air stores parks, workshops and airfields, not to mention repair and salvage facilities, fuel storage, etc.

Thus, at the time the Royal Air Force (RAF) was dispatched to Greece in November 1940, there was a critical shortage of aircraft. This became a highly acrimonious matter between headquarters in Cairo and the Cabinet in London, resulting in the end in the recall of the long-suffering Air Officer Commanding-in-Charge, Middle East. It was only at that critical juncture when Greece and Crete had fallen in April and May 1941 that someone in London saw fit to comment that, of the 1782 aircraft which had by that time been allotted to the Middle East, only 330 had actually arrived. This observer failed to note that even those in the theater, such as the 28 Wellington's of Nos. 37 and 38 Squadrons, had only flown 12 operational sorties in support of operations in Greece in 6 months in the Middle East. Moreover, all the Hurricanes dispatched across the desert route to Cairo from West Africa via Khartoum had to be stripped and inspected before they could be issued to operational squadrons. Without the necessary invisible infrastructure that existed in Britain, this was a time consuming process not really eliminated until after the establishment of a full-scale base in Egypt. Meanwhile, operations, as well as ferrying, caused wastage to exceed replacements, thus making the Royal Air Force Middle East at times almost impotent.

The Barbed-Wire Strand

Moreover, pipeline purdah was and is related to the barbed-wire strand. In this conception, all of the information, decisional analysis and the decisions themselves can be viewed as points along a strand of barbed wire; the segments between the barbs as periods of time; and the barbs themselves as events (both good and bad). Continuing with this conception, in the time between facts becoming evidence, management or command becoming aware of them and making a decision, the facts may have all changed. This is why it is critical that command be able to think and see the strand between the two ends and not just between two barbs, or only a single barb.

In the Middle East case it was also critical that London recognize that the Germans had interior lines and could switch assets from France to Sicily and the Balkans much faster than the British could. So for the British in Greece and the Middle East there was a need to equip the RAF with first-line machines and not with those cast off or not wanted at home. In other words, it would take prescience of mind to see that what mattered took account of both pipeline purdah and of the barbed-wire strand effects.

Robin Higham, PhD

RELATED ARTICLE: Thinking about logistics.

Understanding the elements of military power requires more than a passing knowledge of logistics and how it influences strategy and tactics. An understanding of logistics comes principally from the study of history and lessons learned. Unfortunately, despite its importance, little emphasis is placed on the study of history among logisticians. To compound matters, the literature of warfare is replete with triumphs and tragedy, strategy and tactics, and brilliance or blunders; however, far less has been written concerning logistics and the tasks involved in supplying war or military operations. (1)

Logistics is the key element in warfare, more so in the 21st century than ever before. Success on the modern battlefield is dictated by how well the commander manages available logistical support. Victories by the United States in three major wars (and several minor wars or conflicts) since the turn of the century are more directly linked to the ability to mobilize and bring to bear economic and industrial power than any level of strategic or tactical design. The Gulf War and operations to liberate Iraq further illustrates this point.
   As the machinery of the allied coalition began to turn, armchair
   warriors addicted to action, and even some of the hastily recruited
   military experts, revealed a certain morbid impatience for the
   "real war" to begin. But long before the allied offensive could
   start, professional logisticians had to gather and transport men
   and materiel and provide for the sustained flow of supplies and
   equipment that throughout history has made possible the conduct of
   war. Commanders and their staffs inventoried their stocks, essayed
   the kind and quantities of equipment and supplies required for
   operations in the severe desert climate, and coordinated their
   movement plans with national and international logistics networks.
   The first victory in the Persian Gulf War was getting the forces
   there and making certain they had what they required to fight
   (emphasis added). Then and only then, would commanders initiate
   offensive operations. (2)

Unfortunately, the historical tendency of political and military leadership to neglect logistics activities in peacetime and expand and improve them hastily once conflict has broken out may not be so possible in the future as it has in the past. A declining industrial base, flat or declining defense budgets, force drawdowns, and base closures have all contributed to eliminating or restricting the infrastructure that made rapid expansion possible. Regardless, modern warfare demands huge quantities of fuel, ammunition, food, clothing, and equipment. All these commodities must be produced, purchased, transported, and distributed to military forces. And of course, the means to do this must be sustained. Arguably, logistics of the 21st century will remain, in the words of one irreverent World War II supply officer, "The stuff that if you don't have enough of, the war will not be won as soon as." (3)


(1.) John A. Lynn, ed, Feeding Mars: Logistics in Western Warfare from the Middle Ages to the Present, San Francisco: Westview Press, 1993, vii.

(2.) Charles R. Shrader, U.S. Military Logistics, 1607-1991, A Research Guide, New York: Greenwood Press, 1992, 3.

(3.) Julian Thompson, The Lifeblood of War: Logistics in Armed Conflict, Oxford: Brassy's, 1991, 3

The Editors, Air Force Journal of Logistics

Douglas J. Blazer, PhD, is a principal advisor for Air Force Directorate of Transformation (AF/A4I). He is a recognized expert on matters concerning the Air Force supply system. He is also a frequent contributor to the Air Force Journal of Logistics.
Table 1. Contingency RSP Planning Factors

--Only use for 30 days--wartime spares only and for
  30 days only
--30-day resupply
--No enterprise capability
  --No use of POS or RSP from other sources
--Unit self-sufficiency
--Little or no maintenance
--Difference between plan and actual
  --Sortie and flying hour rates do not always match
  --Direct support objectives do not always match
    operational expectations

Table 2. Logistics Concepts Currently In Use

--Spare is a spare--use all available spares AF-wide
  --Augment RSP with CHPMSK
--RSPs remain beyond 30 days
--Enterprise wide capability
  --Robust RSPs from other sources
  --Augment spares needed to meet unique
    contingency requirements
--Immediate replenishment capability and variable
  resupply times
--Reallocate and redistribute from AF-wide resources
--Limited maintenance capability established

Table 3. Planning Factors Compared to Concepts in Use

       Planning Factor                  Concept In-Use

RSPs are wartime spares         A spare is a spare

30-day resupply                 Variable resupply; default = 20

Unit is self                    Unit receives spares support
sufficient--Enterprise spares   from the Enterprise
capability not available

Unit relies mostly on           On-base or in-theater
depot maintenance               maintenance capability exits

Table 4. Spares Support for Contingency Phases.

     Phase         Reparables    Consumables

Initial Deployment
(D-x to D Day)

--POS              Robust RSP

--War Spares       RSP           CRSP

Build Up (D Day to
D + 180

--POS              CHPMSK        Bench Stock,

--War Spares       RSP           CRSP

Sustainment (D +
180 to Indef)

--POS              RBL, CHPMSK   COLT, Bench

--War Spares       RSP           CRSP

Table 5. Reparable Spares Support Options

      Option                Description              Pros and Cons

Rotating RSPs        Units returns home with      Cons:
                     RSP levels and assets,       Increases airlift
                     while rotating unit brings
                     their RSP                    Promotes ownership
                                                  of RSPs and squadron
                                                  SORTS reporting


                                                  Contingency support
                                                  levels equal to
                                                  levels at home bases

CHPMSK +             Initial units depart with    Cons:
                     RSP levels but assets
                     remain to fill CHPMSK        Use only POS to
                     levels.                      support contingency

                                                  Reduces worldwide


                                                  Reduces airlift

                                                  RSP levels remain
                                                  with "owning" unit

RSP Remains at       Unit returns home. RSP       Pros:
Contingency Base     remains to support
                     rotating in unit.            Use RSPs as
                                                  enterprise assets

                                                  Contingency support
                                                  levels equal to
                                                  levels at home bases

                                                  Reduces airlift


Use POS (RBL)        RSP returns home with        Reduces support at
levels only          unit and is not replaced     contingency base
                     by any levels.               because home bases
                                                  have larger levels
                                                  than (higher
                                                  contingency base

                                                  Promotes ownership
                                                  of RSPs and squadron
                                                  SORTS reporting


                                                  Reduces airlift

Follow-On Support    Same as use POS (RBL)        Cons:
                     levels only, except that a
                     portion of RSP levels are    Home bases have
                     included with POS            larger levels and
                     requirement that RBL         better support than
                     allocates                    (higher priority)
                                                  contingency base

                                                  Promotes ownership
                                                  of RSPs


                                                  Allows optimal
                                                  worldwide allocation
                                                  of a portion of RSP

                                                  Reduces airlift

Optimal Allocation   Segment (allocate) RSP       Cons:
of RSP Spares        levels using RBL logic
                                                  Complicates SORTS
                                                  reporting with
                                                  "split" RSPs


                                                  Best use of all
                                                  available spare

                                                  Reduces airlift
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Title Annotation:Supply chains and spares
Author:Blazer, Douglas J.
Publication:Air Force Journal of Logistics
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2011
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