Magazine article National Defense

U.S. Services Studying Future Power Needs

Magazine article National Defense

U.S. Services Studying Future Power Needs

Article excerpt

While the military pushes for cheaper, smaller, lighter batteries and energy sources that won't slow soldiers down, suppliers, however, may find it difficult to meet those demands.

"Government, as a customer, is not the greatest customer in the whole world if you are on the other side of the table," said Jim Gucinski, from the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division.

He was speaking before industry representatives at the 2003 Tri-Service Power Expo.

"We are really tough customers. We want really high reliability, and we want it at low cost.... And we want you to give it to us on time," he said.

Marine Col. Mark Jones, program manager for mobile electric power, said his service is conducting a two-year study on its battery requirements, "based upon operational scenarios including hot and cold temperature and storage environments."

The Marine Corps also is embarking on two additional studies examining how it provides power on the battlefield, and the viability of using rechargeable batteries, fuel cells, solar panels and hybrids, Jones said.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, there were problems matching up units with the right equipment, Jones said. Even when the equipment arrived on time, it often did not have the right kind of power system, he said.

"We, in the Marine Corps, are taking a very active role in [looking] at the power spectrum--from small batteries to large generators," said Mike Gallagher, program manager for expeditionary power systems at the U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command. Among the priorities are onboard vehicle power systems, power converters and power supply devices.

"It is one of the areas where we are doing serious investment in the science and technology arena," he said. "So what we'll be investigating and working on quite heavily within the next couple of years are futuristic or advanced power systems to help our troops in the field."

The Department of Defense also released a request for proposals in August for "advanced medium mobile power sources," Jones said.

"It is the biggest Defense Department program for generators to date."

Marines currently operate equipment that is more than 30 years old, Jones said. Almost two-thirds of today's generators were designed in the 1970s and 1980s.

About 52,000 out of 87,000 generators are "just old," he said. "[It's] hard to maintain them. Two-thirds of the C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) force is powered by 1980s generators."

One thing the Marine Corps needs urgently is a power management program, Jones said.

"We don't do power management well," he said. "We could use a power management software."

Maj. Mike Bissonnettee, logistics officer with the Marine Corps, said the service needs a power management technical manual. "They don't teach alternative power," he said in an interview.

"There are a lot of great tools, but we don't understand them," Bissonnettee added. "[We're] lacking information on what's available, ... on what's coming down the road. My pet peeve is information."

Other military personnel attending the Expo conveyed similar opinions.

One maintenance officer said the problem is lack of knowledge of what power systems are out there. Others expressed concern that there isn't enough training and education on the different types of power systems.

For the Army, the biggest challenge is lightening the infantry soldier's load, said Tom Nycz, from the Army Communications Electronics Command.

There are also safety concerns, Nycz said. …

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