On the modern battlefield, technology is instrumental in giving coalition forces a decisive edge. Power fuels much of that technology. Traditional power sources have presented complex logistical problems in the environments that today’s Soldiers operate. Furthermore, traditional sources of power production and storage have not kept pace with the ever-increasing demands presented by today’s high-tech Soldier and Small Tactical Unit (STU). PEO Soldier is currently exploring cutting edge, innovative power solutions to help facilitate our forces fighting in asymmetrical combat.
The austere and remote terrain in which coalition forces operate today is often far away from their Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) or other areas with the electrical infrastructure necessary to support their power requirements during extended operations. Lithium ion batteries, which power much of the Brigade Combat Teams’ (BCTs’) ancillary equipment (weapons sensors, computers, GPS systems, night vision devices and communications tools) require standard military generator sets, traditional wall outlets or vehicle power to recharge. The lack of the aforementioned infrastructure allows enemy forces to maneuver outside of these BCTs’ optimal operational areas.
During the recent Nett Warrior Limited User Test (LUT) there was a set of “excursions” held to demonstrate emerging technologies that could potentially enhance the capability of the Nett Warrior system and/or its support equipment. Although the event focused primarily on sustainment power for Nett Warrior, these solutions will have relevant application across the entire breadth of the conventional formation. Technologies demonstrated during these events included worn power, portable charging and unit charging.
These non-traditional power alternatives are being considered for fielding as part of the Nett Warrior program. Nett Warrior is an integrated dismounted leader situational awareness tool that provides advanced navigation and full spectrum mission command capabilities. If fielded as support equipment for the Nett Warrior, these expeditionary power systems will provide a variety of sustainment alternatives for the Commander to choose from. This variety of alternatives will allow the unit to better tailor their power sustainment load based on mission requirements. Moreover, these expeditionary power systems are proving themselves to have application across the formation, apart from the Nett Warrior equipped unit.
The unit that supported the Nett Warrior LUT excursion in Fort Riley, Kansas identified an immediate need for a limited number of the power solutions demonstrated at the Nett Warrior LUT to support them on their deployment to theater. Product Manager Ground Soldier (PM GS), the Army office that manages the Nett Warrior program, will provide them with many different types of Soldier portable power capability to include:
- 300 Watt Propane and Methanol Fuel Cells – provides power to the squad or platoon and can be carried in the Soldier’s rucksack
- XX55 Methanol Fuel Cells – provides power to the individual, team or squad and can be mounted and carried on the IOTV or in an assault pack
- Rucksack Enhanced Portable Power System – solar energy power system that provides power to the individual or team and can be carried in the assault pack
- Soldier Power Manager with Solar Blanket – solar powered, energy harvesting power management and distribution system that can be carried in the assault pack
PM GS is also supporting a Stryker unit using Land Warrior Systems in theater with 20 prototype conformal batteries. This in-theater evaluation of the 110Whr, conformal battery will also provide invaluable feedback on the concept of this Soldier-power solution in a relevant operational environment. If successful, a conformal battery variant could eventually replace the traditional “box-shaped” battery for the Soldier worn application.
Future fielding efforts for these devices have not been determined and will be shaped by Soldier feedback from theater.
PEO Soldier remains dedicated to providing Soldiers with innovative technology to help them remain the best equipped fighting force in the world, regardless of their operating environment.