Besides fuel, water and ammunition, batteries are among the most essential commodities on the battlefield. They also ate a logistician's nightmare. Not only are most military batteries heavy and bulky but, quite often, also in short supply.
The war in Iraq offered yet more evidence that the military services need to start developing alternative power sources, such as fuel cells and solar panels. During the conflict, the Army and the Marines, particularly, had a tough time keeping enough batteries to power a vast array of energy-draining devices, such as radios, chem-bio sensors and anti-tank weapons. The services scrambled to have batteries shipped to Iraq from other war theaters, while manufacturers pumped up their production lines. They managed to meet the basic needs for the conflict, but the battery crisis highlighted what many experts have said for years: that it's time for the services to begin phasing out those heavy disposable batteries and adopt more energy-efficient technologies. For more details on the power-sources debate, please turn in our special report on page 16.
The Army, meanwhile, is beginning to feel the pressure that comes with having to deliver a futuristic, information-age family of combat vehicles in less than seven years. Having received approval to spend $15 billion on the next development phase of the Future Combat Systems, the Army must prove now that it can make it happen. …