Safe fuel storage at logistics hubs

One of the things that the typically small peacetime exercises don't test & train much is how to run 'rear area' logistics, including how to run logistical hubs (the successors of the railheads of old). There aren't many supply transportation & field depot-running troops in peacetime armed forces. This is one of the areas that depend heavily on reinforcement by reserve personnel in many land forces.

I suppose it's fairly obvious that commercial transportation of supplies (semi trailers with container or fuel tank) should be the means of transportation towards two fairly protected and leap-frogging army corps logistical hubs. Transportation of supplies (=overwhelmingly diesel fuel and artillery shells & propellant modules) from the hubs to drop-off points (if not end users) in the field could and should then be done with military vehicles; mostly flat rack and PLS/MULTI/EPLS/DROPS-compatible vehicles in approx. 15 ton class. This resupply should happen daily, most likely it would happen on every other day and when things go wrong better don't depend on it at all. Hence all manoeuvre forces should be supplied for approx. three days minimum, and scouting forces for even longer.

Supply convoy in Vietnam; I would not want to serve in any
vehicle with "flammable" written in big letters on it, in a warzone!
The security of such supply hubs is an interesting topic. Relatively low quality troops could be used to secure them against attack on land, assuming that only armoured recce and airborne troops are likely threats (let's disregard agents and sabotage by civilians for this was hardly ever a substantial issue in short historical wars). Air and missile attack are an altogether different threat, and some area air defence system would be an obvious choice.

Defences alone would likely not suffice, though. The supplies consumed by a mechanised corps in a mere week may easily amount to 50,000 metric tons plus packaging material (lots of wood and plastic).

To store that many explosive munitions and that much fuel in a single area that could be secured against stealthy attackers like airborne forces or armoured recce forces by a battalion takes a huge area. All supplies distributed in pattern of 50x50 m cells with average mass stored per cell of 5 metric tons would still be 25,000,000 square meters - such as 5 km x 5 km, about the size of an airbase.
This area becomes even bigger if you want to keep one fire or secondary explosion from leaping to the next bunch of supplies by insisting on 100 x 100 m cells - now we're talking about areas such as 10 km x 10 km. You COULD bunch everything into a square kilometre, of course. That would produce a most impressive inferno once hit.

It's obviously the better the more closely you can (relatively) safely store at least the fuels, and this requires some resilience to damage. It might be possible to protect some fuel reservoirs by storing them below ground level (quickly done with engineers' earthmovers IF there are enough of both engineers and earthmovers). You wouldn't afford the resources and time to build Hesco barrier-styled  fortresses as on occupation camps at the end of the world, after all.
Storage slightly below ground level would still not fully protect them from whatever threat comes from above, and to cover the fuel tanks (typically bladder tanks, but there are also collapsible cylindrical fuel tanks) with much soil to protect against burning debris would make it much harder to leap frog quickly while a single small bomblet could still penetrate and set afire the supplies.

flexible fuel tanks that serve as their own trailer are most fascinating
Provisions that control the manage damage (countering leaks and extinguishing fires) without much human intervention would be great to have. Supply storage areas could be much more compact, and still withstand at least merely occasional attacks (or they could be much safer while still being huge).

Two rather obvious options for this are self-sealing rubber tank walls

and automated fire extinguisher solutions.

(principle of operation; it doesn't seem to be as efficient for bladder tanks)

Now let's play a guessing game!

What do you think, how very close to heart is a sufficient stock of such things (from self-sealing fuel bladders to piping and fire extinguishing systems) to the leadership of an army say, in competition with 200 more officer job slots or maybe ten to twenty new main battle tanks?
Do you think the four star generals would passionately argue to the minister of defence in favour of thousands of empty rubber sacks with protection features and equipment at the expense of some headquarters where 200 officers work?

This, ladies and gentlemen, is why I keep insisting on civilian control of the armed services and on reigning in against the pursuit of self-interest by the armed services. It's also why I am so concerned about the bias created by career paths (an infantry officer would have a different bias about bladder tanks than a logistics officer). The civilian leadership needs to be advised by or include non-insiders with sufficient knowledge, of course.

More on this problem in general (in a more abstract way again) later.


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