The Military Is Hoping To Save A Bunch Of Money And Lives With This New Hardware


Photo: Pratt & Whitney

It’s estimated that one U.S. Marine is killed for every 50 convoys of gasoline the U.S. brings into a war zone.Getting fuel to the front lines in Afghanistan has become a huge problem after last year’s attacks on a Pakistani outpost left the border with that country closed.

Convoys have since been travelling far greater distances exposing themselves to far greater risk.

One solution is to use less fuel, and to that end the Pentagon is introducing these new technologies to cut down fatalities, and boost fuel efficiency in its very thirsty machines.

AIR: The The F/A-18 'Green Hornet,' was the first military aircraft to go supersonic on a 50-50 biofuel blend in 2010

The fighter jet's test flights have been flawless, and pilots haven't noticed much of a difference flying with the alternative fuel blend, derived from algae.

Now, 99 per cent of the Air Force fleet has been certified to fly on biofuels, which are expected to cover half of the Air Force's domestic fuel needs by 2016.

AIR: The MV-22 Osprey, used by the Marines, has also been run using a biofuel blend

The tilt-rotor multi-mission aircraft, which combines the functionality of a helicopter with the long range and high speed of a plane, reached altitudes of 25,000 feet on a half-blend of camelina based biofuel and standard petroleum based JP-5 fuel during a test flight in 2011.

AIR: The Adaptive Versatile Engine, known as project ADVENT, offers high-power and fuel-saving modes in jets

The multi-speed engine will allow pilots to switch from high-speed combat and energy-efficient cruise modes, which is expected to improve supersonic fuel efficiency by 35 per cent compared to current fixed-speed engines.

ADVENT is in phase two of a six-stage development process, which is being overseen by Rolls-Royce.

SEA: The USS Makin Island features a hybrid electric engine that could save more than $250 million in fuel costs over the life of each ship

This amphibious assault vessel, which made its maiden voyage in 2009, is the Navy's first hybrid-drive warship, running on electricity about 70 per cent of the time, and gas when it needs more power.

The Makin Island uses an average 15,000 gallons of fuel per day -- less than half the 35,000 to 40,000 gallons it takes to run an older steam ship of its size -- according to UT San Diego's Jeanette Steele.

The downside is that there aren't too many piers in the world where the ship can recharge, because its systems run at a higher voltage compared with other warships.

SEA: The Navy's 'Great Green Fleet', a carrier strike group, is expected to run entirely on alternative fuels by 2016

This fleet consists of nuclear vessels, hybrid electric ships and aircraft -- all powered by biofuels.

One of the highlight features is a 36.5 megawatt, high-temperature semiconductor (HTS) motor, which replaces traditional copper wire to conduct electricity 150 times more efficiently.

GROUND: Sergeants drive low-speed electric cars around some domestic military bases

An expected fleet of 190,000 vehicles, built from lightweight materials and featuring hybrid engines, will reach speeds of about 25mph.

The DoD is improving combustion engines and transmissions, thermal management and hybrid propulsion in order to meet a required 30 per cent reduction in non-tactical vehicles' fossil fuel use by 2020.

GROUND: The Fuel Efficient Ground Vehicle Demonstrator (FED) could soon have the same capabilities as a standard Humvee

Built around Kimmorgen's light-wight, low voltage power generation platform, The FED is expected to be 70 per cent more fuel efficient than the traditional M1114 Humvee.

Gizmodo's Andrew Tarantola reports that the Alpha model, shown here, boasts a Cummins turbo-charged 4-cylinder 200-horsepower diesel engine, six-speed automatic transmission, and low-rolling resistance tires. The solar panel on the hatch helps power internal electronics.

GROUND: Solar power shades fit over standard military tents and reduce the temperature inside by up to 15°

The panels can produce 1 to 2 kilowatts of power daily -- enough to power lights, radios, laptops or other small devices.

The technology is seen here at a camp in Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa, but it has also been rolled out in Afghanistan and at the Marine Corps' 29 Palms centre in California.

GROUND: A microgrid can combine multiple energy sources in one self-contained generator that manages power flow

These energy islands, which don't need to be attached to a commercial grid, consists of smart generators that link with one another to control power supplies and operate at peak efficiency.

This 1 kilowatt model was tested at the military's Fort Irwin training centre in California last year, and was recently deployed in Afghanistan.

GROUND: The long-lasting Soldier Comfortable Rechargeable Battery can support a 72-hour mission

This small 25-watt fuel cell, thin enough to conform to a soldiers protective chest plate, is designed to reduce the load soldiers are required to carry on a mission and to cut the military's power bills.

Pew estimates that up to 20 per cent of a soldier's typical 70- to 90-pound pack currently consists of replacement batteries, and that a typical infantry battalion goes through about $150,000 of single-use batteries each year.

GROUND: The Army's Rucksack Enhanced Portable Power System can recharge batteries or supply continuous power

This lightweight unit, which combines solar panels, connectors and adapters, can charge most common military batteries in five or six hours -- they can also be daisy-chained together for more power.

The REPPS is already in use in Afghanistan.

BONUS: Power play in the field

After a successful trial of these devices at 29 Palms -- where Marines were able to run their equipment solely on solar and battery power for 192 hours -- the gear was sent to a remote base in Afghanistan for a field run in 2010.

A foot patrol was able to operate for three weeks without battery resupply, saving the Marines 700 pounds of weight. Two patrol bases were also powered entirely on renewable energy, while a third reduced fuel use from 20 gallons per day to 2.5 gallons.

These aren't the only innovations being worked on by the Pentagon

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