US Army researches vehicle grid for resilient battlefield power
The U.S. Army is experimenting with prototypes of fast-forming vehicle power grids that will enable greater mobility for Soldiers on the battlefield. Two Army Futures Command (AFC) research centers joined Project Manager Terminal High Altitude Area Defense and the Rapid Reaction Technology Office at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, in March to demonstrate a proof-of-concept power system that enables enhanced continuity of operations and maneuverability. Dan Lafontaine, DEVCOM C5ISR Center Public Affairs, reports.
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U.S. Army Futures Command engineers connected two Medium Tactical Vehicles customized with controls that allow engines to turn on and off automatically according to power requirements, thus requiring less fuel (Picture source: U.S. Army)
The U.S. Army is developing capabilities in which combat vehicles can quickly join together to create a vehicle grid that increases power resilience and energy efficiency, according to Frank W. Bohn, an electronics engineer with the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR) Center — a component of AFC’s Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM).
“This demonstration shows how the DoD is integrating multiple sources to achieve the concept of universal battlefield power,” Bohn said. “Our goals are to extend mission duration and reduce the amount of equipment needed while providing continuous power output.”
The teams demonstrated several related technologies concurrently at the Redstone Arsenal event. For one demonstration, engineers connected two Medium Tactical Vehicles customized with controls that allow engines to turn on and off automatically according to power requirements, thus requiring less fuel.
In addition, researchers remotely monitored power data from a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck. This capability allows units to observe trucks and other equipment that are miles away from a central location to determine when systems require fuel resupply or maintenance, Bohn said.
The C5ISR Center is partnering with DEVCOM Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC) in researching and maturing technology. “As warfighting technologies continue to develop and combat vehicle capabilities grow more power-hungry, finding better, more efficient ways to generate, store and use electrical power on those vehicles becomes critically important,” said Dean McGrew, branch chief of GVSC’s Powertrain Electrification Team. “We’re researching methods to harness vehicle power through micro-gridding vehicles together to improve fuel savings and operational availability while maximizing energy use efficiency.
“Future vehicle hybridization has the added benefits of silent mobility and extended silent watch. The Army could decrease vehicles’ audible energy by 80% and thermal energy by 90% with full electrification. Also, the fast-forming vehicle microgrid is much quicker to set up and tear down than a conventional generator system unloaded from a trailer,” McGrew said.
The vehicle grid is one aspect of C5ISR Center’s research for improving battlefield power generation, distribution, storage and monitoring. “We’re bringing together technologies to interoperate, share power and create a flexible architecture for expeditionary operations,” said Rick Bosse, a C5ISR Center electronics engineer. “It creates better power resiliency for units regardless of the mission.”
C5ISR Center’s key component is the Tactical Microgrid Standard (TMS), which establishes a common language for power units — such as generators and batteries — to communicate with each other. TMS enables interoperability among different vendors’ equipment, and the standard allows for automation of many Soldier tasks for increased simplicity. Also, a TMS-compliant grid simplifies tactical power systems by allowing sources to be added and removed without expert setup. “The C5ISR Center and GVSC are working toward hands-off grid operation,” Bohn said. “Vehicles will know what to do once they’re plugged in. There will be minimal user interaction needed for future microgrids, and Soldiers can focus more on their important missions at hand.”
The C5ISR Center is the U.S. Army’s applied research and advanced technology development center for C5ISR capabilities. As the Army’s primary integrator of C5ISR technologies and systems, the center develops and matures capabilities that support all six Army modernization priorities, enabling information dominance and tactical overmatch for the joint warfighter. The C5ISR Center is an element of DEVCOM. Through collaboration across the command’s core technical competencies, DEVCOM leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation’s wars and come home safely. DEVCOM is a major subordinate command of AFC.