Addition Through Subtraction Empowering the Soldier by Lightening the Load

October 7, 2013

A complex and dynamic global security environment, coupled with an uncertain fiscal environment, demands that the Army continue to invest wisely in innovation and technologies. The prospect of a smaller yet more capable Army demands an approach that balances increasing capabilities and reducing resource requirements. Digital connectivity links the Soldier and squad, their tactical vehicles and the command post to provide unprecedented mission command. Recent advancements in Soldier-worn equipment have allowed the dismounted Soldier to be more informed, more agile and more lethal than ever before. However, the increased digital capability also generates an increased demand for power. Historically, innovations in Soldier power struggle to keep pace with the growing power requirements that accompany these increased capabilities. The dismounted Soldier knows the real cost of more power—additional batteries that add weight and consume more space in the combat load.

Power management is a significant mission planning consideration for the dismounted squad leader who manages combat loads. Dismounted squads operating in the most austere environments have traditionally carried enough batteries to sustain individual Soldier devices for up to 72 hours before resupply. The mission profile of a typical Soldier’s combat load for 72 hours demands up to 23 batteries (a total weight of about 10 pounds or 9.8 percent of a 102.1-pound combat load).2 Army logisticians are very effective at pushing supplies to the forward edge of the battlefield, but not without significant cost and risk.

The Soldier and squad are the centerpiece of the modernization strategy.3 As the Army develops strategies to effectively equip and train the Soldier of 2020, it must reconcile how to power the growing number of Soldier-worn devices while also reducing the Soldier’s battery load and decreasing the logistical demand for battery resupply. “Every time we deliver fuel or batteries on the battlefield we put Soldiers at risk.”4 A reduced battery load also frees up limited space for the dismounted Soldier to carry other mission-essential equipment such as water, ammunition and rations, thus reducing sustainment requirements. Developing operational energy alternatives must allow the dismounted squad to conduct extended missions while reducing the battery load and the reliance on battery resupply.