Climate Warming and United States Military Force Projection: Impacts of Increasing Temperatures on Forward Operability


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This thesis assesses the potential strategic-level implications that global climate warming may have on the United States Department of Defense, particularly the United States Air Force, up to the year 2099. The Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, a critical strategic airlift platform utilized by the United States Air Force, serves as the case study aircraft. Performance degradation experienced by the C-17 is measured by the imposed reduction in maximum allowable takeoff weight under six thresholds. As regional temperatures rise, density altitude also increases, which reduces production and overall engine performance, requiring a decrease in aircraft takeoff weight. The impacts of climate warming on the C-17 are measured across the six terrestrial geographic combatant commands defined by the Department of Defense. USAFRICOM, USSOUTHCOM, and USINDOPACOM (not including Antarctica) contain the highest portion of geographic area that is subject to year-round payload reductions. USCENTCOM trails close behind. By the year 2099, nearly 70% of both USAFRICOM and USSOUTHCOM will require a 29.3% payload reduction year-round, and over 50% of both USINDOPACOM (not including Antarctica) and USCENTCOM will require a year-round 17.0% payload reduction. This performance degradation is expected to interfere with ongoing global conflicts that are of interest to the United States, hinder the United States' commitment to providing reassurance to foreign allies through contingency responsiveness, and significantly reduce the efficiency by which the Department of Defense can execute actions in direct support of national security priorities.