A Logistics Lesson for Container Data Centers, US Navy’s F-35 Fighter engine too big to be shipped

Container data centers are hot topics and there are lots of new players in the game.  The military has used containers for a long time to ship supplies.  Here is a story about a goof with the F-35 fighter engine for the US Navy supply logistics.

Yet Still Another Embarrassing F-35 Problem

December 3, 2010: The U.S. Navy has yet another problem with the new F-35 fighter it will soon be operating off its carriers. It seems that no one bothered to check if the engine for the F-35C could fit into the C-2 aircraft the navy currently uses to deliver jet fighter engines to carriers. Normally, carriers go to sea with 30-35 spare engines for their F-18 fighters (that the F-35s will replace). In the course of a six month deployment, a dozen or more of these engines will be flown to, or from, the carrier.

The F-35 engine can be disassembled into five major components, and the largest of these can be carried by sling under an MH-53E helicopter or V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft. Both of these aircraft are normally carried by amphibious ships, along with a battalion of marines, and are usually near a carrier task force. But the range for the MH-53E (carrying the heaviest component) is only 550 kilometers, if the weather is good. The V-22 has had problems landing heavy sling loads on carriers, and more research is needed there. The heaviest component, including the shipping container, weighs 4.3 tons, and is too heavy to transfer at sea using the normal methods of underway replenishment (with the supply ship moving along side and using cables and hoses to move material and fuel.) This leaves delivering the engine via the supply ship. This requires very calm weather, and getting close enough to use cranes to haul the engine aboard the carrier. This can be tricky, even in good weather, on the high seas. All this is a big problem, as within eight years, F-35Cs will be operating off Nimitz class carriers, and getting fresh engines on, and broken ones off, will become a real issue. The navy will improvise some kind of solution, but this is not the first major hassle with F-35s operating on carriers.

If you thinking about containers for data centers, make sure you think of the lifecycle and logistics to support the maintenance and repair of containers.