Network capabilities are the main focus of testing at the Army’s Network Integration Evaluations (NIE), but the service is also looking to improve its energy resources on the battlefield.
At the NIE held in May and June, the Army tested a vest with a large, rechargeable battery that conforms to a soldier’s body. Soldiers can use it to recharge multiple electronic devices, including radios, night-vision devices and infrared scopes for their rifles, says Col. Paul Roege, chief of the Army’s operational energy office. They simply put the devices on their vests’ holsters to connect to the rechargeable battery.
“It reduces their load,” he says. “You don’t have to carry as many individual batteries and worry about whether you have enough AA or D batteries. You just use this centrally configured rechargeable battery.”
At the NIE, the Army also tested 10-watt and 60-watt solar blankets, which can collect solar energy and re-charge the vest battery, Roege says. The Army also tested a small device called the Soldier Power Manager, a converter that lets soldiers plug into any power source, such as a vehicle or generator, to replenish the battery power in their mobile devices, he says.
“We want to give soldiers more options and make it more convenient for them to power their different devices,” Roege says.
The various battery technologies are also being tested on the battlefield. The 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry tested the vest and various components in Afghanistan. More recently, the Army furnished the equipment to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne and 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team for testing, he says.
Besides energy technology for soldiers, several vendors have proposed developing generators that are built into the transmissions of Army vehicles, Roege says. The Army is considering the technology because it would save soldiers in the battlefield from having to pull trailers that carry generators, he says.
Moving forward, the Army will focus on better ways to integrate energy into the operations at the NIEs, he says.