Electric power. Any business traveler knows how hard it can be to find when your Blackberry, laptop, iPod, Kindle and whatever other wattage-guzzling necessity of modern life needs charging. Now imagine that you’re the U.S. Army, working in an austere environment, with all kinds of communications, jammers, and other technology that didn’t exist ten years ago that is in need of a boost.
In an article in the April issue of DTI, I asked Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, deputy commander of the Army Capabilities Integration Center about what the Army is doing to get all of its gear powered up. He replied that the Army is working on technologies that will enable it to field a fleet of tactical vehicles that churn out enough wattage to produce their own fuel and water, perhaps from biomass. In the long run, Vane wants to generate a megajoule of energy on board each designated vehicle. (One megajoule of energy is equivalent to 1 million joules, or roughly the amount of kinetic energy generated by a 1-ton vehicle moving at 100 mph.) Access to this much power would permit the Army “to leverage directed energy, potentially [in the form of] an electromagnetic gun. With that level of power,” Vane says, “I could make my own water [and] my own fuel. [The vehicle] would be able to operate without coming in to be supplied for 30 days. That’s where we’re looking to go in 8-10 years.”
While not dealing in megajoules of onboard energy, BAE Systems has developed an onboard power management system that is being used in the Paladin Integrated Management (PIM) howitzer, the next-generation version in the M109 Paladin family of vehicles that generate 30 kw. of 208/120-volt AC continuous mobile onboard power, with the potential to reach about 70 kw.
When it comes to the Paladin, BAE has eliminated the analog system in favor of what representatives call the “digital backbone” run by a power management system. The “clean” power produced by the 200-lb. unit is “friendly for modern electronics,” says Ron Hayward, director of BAE’s U.S. Combat Systems. “You have all the engineering headspace you need for future growth for network-centric needs or whatever the future force strategy is for the U.S. Army,” he adds. In addition to being fielded on the Paladin, the system has been tested on the Stryker, the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles and Humvees. BAE Systems recently signed a contract with the U.S. Marine Corps for test and evaluation of the unit that is slated to begin this summer.
Read the rest here.