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NEWS | April 11, 2024

PACAF team unveils innovative resilient energy source to enhance Agile Combat Employment

By Maj. Stacie N. Shafran, Pacific Air Forces

A dynamic team of Air Force personnel stationed in the Indo-Pacific region unveiled an innovative solution known as Rays to Jet Power at the Logistics Officer Association symposium in St. Louis, Missouri, March 27.

As part of the Air Force Logistics Directorate’s Aether Sprint initiative under the Tesseract Office of Innovation, the team successfully addressed a critical challenge hindering Agile Combat Employment, or ACE operations: the limitations of traditional fuel generators.

Aether Sprint serves as an annual platform for frontline Airmen to directly collaborate with Tesseract and Air Force Logistics senior leaders, addressing critical logistical challenges.

Master Sgt. Jet Nesle, project lead and ACE resource manager for the 18th Wing at Kadena Air Base, Japan, explained that Rays to Jet Power is a resilient energy source capable of providing 60 kilowatt-hours of power continuously. It signifies a significant advancement with far-reaching implications for sustainability, cost efficiency, and environmental impact.

“Unlike traditional generators reliant on diesel combustion, Rays to Jet Power harnesses solar energy through roll-out fabric solar panels, providing an immediate, resilient, and eco-friendly power source,” said Nesle. “Its adaptability is remarkable, as it can replace nearly all diesel fuel consumption in various settings, from military bases to remote communities.”

The urgent need for a sustainable alternative was underscored by the aftermath of Typhoon Mawar's impact in 2023.

"Our response teams grappled with the immense challenge of deploying and maintaining 78 generators, each draining $2,000-$4,000 daily to sustain critical services. This scenario highlighted the urgent need for a sustainable alternative," said Tech. Sgt. Manny Rivero, an electrical power production instructor stationed at Andersen Air Base, Guam. "With Rays to Jet Power, the outcome could have been different."

The team's efforts were recognized with $1.9 million in additional funding and acknowledgment, including finalist status in Tesseract's Aether Sprint.

“We're really excited about the opportunity to showcase this innovation on a larger stage and compete for the chance to deploy this technology to the field and to the warfighter as quickly as possible," said Maj. Ray Hill, a data scientist and the Pacific Air Forces innovation lead at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

From conceptualization to the integration of battery storage systems, each milestone along Rays to Jet Power’s development journey propelled the team closer to its objective of providing sustainable energy solutions for the military and beyond.

"With every innovation project, there are challenges - and that's the fun part about it. We've overcome a lot of those, and the team has done a phenomenal job with that," said Hill.

Moreover, the team’s participation in Air University's Project Mercury further refined Rays to Jet Power. Project Mercury empowers individuals to tackle critical challenges faced by the Air Force and Space Force. Established in 2019, this part-time, virtual 90-day program fosters a culture of collaborative innovation and graduates become certified innovators through the University of Michigan's College of Engineering.

"Project Mercury offered a unique platform to collaborate with a diverse group of innovators across the Air Force," said Tech Sgt. Cameron Olson, a Rays to Jet Power team member and NCOIC, Material Control, 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan. "The program's curriculum and mentorship opportunities were instrumental in helping us refine our approach and secure additional funding for Rays to Jet Power 's development."

The enthusiastic reception from military units and international partners underscores Rays to Jet Power's potential impact, not only in contingency response scenarios but also in garrison settings and humanitarian efforts. “The potential to provide power to local communities, especially in remote areas, presents a significant opportunity for positive impact,” said Hill.

The team is actively seeking partners to expedite Rays to Jet Power's adoption across the Air Force and Department of Defense, turning it into a joint effort toward a sustainable future.

"Working with this dedicated team has been truly inspiring,” Nesle said. “Each member brought unique expertise and passion, enriching our project with diverse perspectives. I especially want to highlight Cameron because his exceptional leadership and attention-to-detail have been invaluable. Our team achieved remarkable milestones, a testament to our collective commitment to driving change.”

The team is comprised of:

Col. Steve Marshall

Maj. Ray Hill

Maj. Stacie Shafran

Master Sgt. Jet Nesle

Tech. Sgt. Cameron Olson

Tech. Sgt. Manny Rivero