The New Military will face several technical hurdles before it can be realized. The technology is advancing quite rapidly in some areas, and very
slowly in others. To fix this disparity, the government has been requesting a number of white papers from private sector scientists in R&D, civies
with clever ideas, in addition to those labs already working under military contracts.
I've been scanning over the requested tecnology, the areas the government really needs help with, and the one that sticks out at me is power
generation. To some extent this is where the bio-machines come in, but they are far from complete implementation. The more universal need is for
fuel cells, batteries, similar energy storage and transfer devices.
All the nifty toys in the world won't do you any good with dead batteries. There is some truly amazing weapons technology in the fields of
microwave, laser, electro magnetics, and other high energy systems -- but that's just the problem. High Energy systems require a lot of juice.
There are dozens of platforms that simply don't generate enough electricity to make the weapons feasible.
There is only one boat that generates sufficient power to utilize any of these new weapons effectively. There are no aircraft, save one specially
configured commercial jumbo jet that can fire a High Energy laser. There are no wheeled or tracked vehicles that generate enough power, nor are there
any practical man-portable backpack models. Therefore, much of the advancement in these fields (High Energy Applications) is going to waste because
it can't be brought to bear on any target outside the lab.
The above is a link to a privately marketed study on the subject that is several years old. The actual study is pay-per-view, but look at the table
of contents for an idea of the situation four or five years ago, it hasn't changed much. The government is still desperately seeking breakthroughs,
and the private sector is charging exhorbitant fees for information that should be free.
Contemporary military tech has evolved to use as little power as possible, to extend battery life, cut down on battery weight, and generally make the
weapons more battlefield capable. A good example of this trend is evidenced in shoulder fired SAM and LAW weapons. The weapons had to be light,
reliable, and have a reasonable shelf life, while at the same time they require a large amount of STEADY power to collect targetting data, run
software, and in most cases initiate the primer of the ordinance. If you want nightvision, or infrared, or if you want to project a radar/laser beam
on the target you need still more power.
The military designers have been walking a delicate tightrope for years, and unfortunately the weapons have now evolved far ahead of energy storage
capabilities. The batteries used by the military for most applications are suprisingly unadvanced. Let's take a look..
There is another problem, and that is a lack of standards for battery size, interoperability, and power sharing between international forces, and in
some cases even between the reserves and regulars of the same force (due to new support and weapons systems being granted to front line troops first).
Here's a VERY short list of different power profiles for some various tech.
* 1⁄2AA / AN/AVS-9 Night Vision / 6135-01-340-7883
* U9VL-J / DTD/ANCD (AN/CYZ-10) / 6135-01-369-9792
* BA-5368/U / AN/PRC-90 Survival Radio / 6135-01-455-7947
* BA-5372/U / AN/PRC-119 SINCGARS / 6135-01-214-6441
* BA-5390/U / AN/PRC-119 and others / 6135-01-501-0833
* BA-5312/U / AN/PRC-112 Surv. Radio / 6135-01-235-4168
* BA-5347/U / AN/PAS-13 Thermal Sight / 6135-01-445-7946
* UBI-2590 / AN/PRC-119 – Li-ion Rech. / TBD
* BAT 294 / M-CAD / 6135-99-479-5348
* BAT 297 / Keystone radio / 6135-99-250-0964
* BAT 248 / Classified (surveillance) / 6135-99-425-1573
* Sophie / Thermal imaging / 6135-14-502-2802
* SEM 52 / SEM 52 radio / 6135-12-308-9723
* SEM 70 / SEM 70 radio / 6135-12-309-8604
* BPU 7000 / BPU 7000 radio / 6135-12-333-3641
* ColproCAM / Chemical agent monitor / 6135-99-747-1340
* MIDS / Memory back-up / 6135-571-4226BY
* Shrike / Munitions exploder / 6135-99-256-1020
That is a partial list for one (1) company. There are a large number of suppliers for various segments of the American armed forces, and even more
when you consider NATO, the UN, or any other force amalgam.
Another logistics problem facing the military is the tendency of batteries to 'leak' energy over time. Check out the link below. (They also have
many links on the below site to other High Energy Applications, check them out.)
There are technologies available to track the power drain and even correct it, but they add signifigantly to the cost of the battery, and the cost of
the maintenance schedule. See below.
There do exist solar battery chargers, and solar power sources, but none of them are able to handle the load alone. There have been recent advances
in coupling thermal chargers and visble light chargers into one unit. However the advances have not been implimented. See the link below for an
example of solar battery tech and field panels.
Fuel cells are another area of enormous interest, for me personally and apparently for those in military procurement. The government has been going
gaga over fuel cells, privately of course so as not to ruin their oil investments. The idea is to acheive the right balance between portability,
power on demand, and storage capacity.
Here's a very brief primer on how fuel cells work, and the site has some good links as well to keep yourself informed as to upcoming research goals,
new projects, and publicized advances.
Here's a short list of the companies doing research in the area. The interests listed below are the primary competitors for the juiciest contracts.
There are others, but if asked by an investor, this is the 'diversified' list I would give. These are the companies most heavily invested in fuel
cell research, and those companies with the most to gain by marketting and liscensing new technology.
Acumentrics - Ball Aerospace - Ballard - Battelle - Bellcore - Boeing - Caterpillar - Cummins Eagle Picher - Fuel Cell Energy - General Dynamics / C4
Systems - General Motors- Harris Hydrogenics - Ida Tech - Lockheed Martin - Maxell - McDermott - Medis Technologies - MTI Micro Fuel Cells - Motorola
Labs - Northrop Grumman - Oshkosh Truck - Plug Power - Proton Energy - QinetiQ - Saft Batteries - Ultralife Batteries - United Defense - UTC Fuel
Cells - Valence Technology
None of them have cracked the real nut yet, but it's assured that whoever does will have more lucrative liscensing contracts than they can handle,
assuming they don't get taken over and muscled out. I'm not going to provide links to the official sites of each company, that seems like a bit of
a waste of space. A quick internet search using the company name should be sufficient to pull up their web presence, for anyone interested.
The 3rd annual conference on Aerospace and Military Fuel Cells was held in Washington last September. They talked about the state of the science, and
the needs of the government moving forward.
Here's another that was held in California, regarding the state of military fuel cell applications over the next five years.
There has been an enormous amount of interest in this technology, both in military and private circles. Here's a forward looking statement about the
market for fuel cells over the next decade. This is just one opinion, but most agree the growth potential is enormous.
There are obvious military applications for both generator, mid-sized vehicle-mounted, and man portable micro fuel cells. It's almost impossible to
quantify the number of uses fuel cells would have if they were properly refined. There are of course many different types of fuel cells, utilizing
many different processes to generate power. I don't want to turn this into a thread about fuel cells, but they do have some finer points worth
discussing, perhaps more in depth later. The link below is a good summary of what the military needs in a fuel cell, however there are as many
possible forms as their are applications.
Here's some more information on military applications of fuel cell technology, and some advances that were made in the area of efficiency.
I would caution anyone who thinks they can just do a web search and come up with the really good stuff. The in depth analysis, breakthrough tech, and
non-standard applications are expensive to access. In order to get down and dirty and provide a real concrete analysis, investment grade analysis, I
would end up spending 20-30k dollars on subscriptions, white papers, research results, and other information commodities. Of course, there is more
than one way to skin a cat.
I will be back with more on this and other topics very soon! (Just as soon as I'm done figuring out how to skin this here cat.)