Military equipment requires power solutions that are reliable, independent of local economy and sustainable for more than the duration of lodging or trips. They must also be robust enough to power everything from simple laptops with satellite connections to multiple communications and solar arrays.
Let’s examine the challenges that power solutions for military use faces and some of the solutions that can allow a modern military detachment to run indefinitely.
The Challenges of Supplying Power in Military Settings
The challenge in creating solutions suitable for military applications comes from the inherent situations that military personnel face. They may be separated from the grid for a number of weeks, unable to supply diesel generators with gasoline, or stuck with systems that provide less power than that particular deployment uses.
Another challenge with military power supplies is that engineers must be trained in maintaining and repairing power generation systems. Technology that requires too high of a degree can often become inherently dangerous in combat situations or too difficult to repair if key personnel is lost due to one reason or another.
Another significant hurdle concerning military power solutions revolves around the mobility and efficiency of any given power source. While solar power is incredibly mobile, it does not have a high enough energy conversion ratio to supply the demands of modern military technology.
Electrical grid tie-ins are generally regarded as the most reliable source of electricity, but they are also the least mobile. Enemy personnel can also attack power plants and other types of infrastructure to easily disable these types of power supply setups.
The last major challenge concerns creating a customized power supply system for military use. These often integrate multiple sources of energy and ways to store electricity, but they also present a few caveats of their own. These customized systems are often complicated, which in turn exacerbates the complexity of supplying reliable electricity with a system that can be maintained in peak working order.
Sleek Solutions with Sturdy, Simple and Interchangeable Components
One solution that allows for electricity generation in a military environment is to utilize commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions in the form of modular components.
These COTS solutions tend to come in the form of 28V input for ground and airborne situations with 270V DC with AC available. They allow for equipment to meet the demand of low- and high-line conditions, power spikes, surges and input ripples to allow for the most reliable generation of power in the most unreliable environments.
Output of COTS components can range from just a few watts with one connection to kilowatts spread over 40 or more connections.
Modular components bring numerous advantages to military power generation applications. They’re easier to replace, involve less risk, provide a cost-effective solution, and allow for a significantly lower non-recurring engineering cost (NRE) due to the way these components work.
Maintaining Aging Systems
Modularized components shine in another part of electricity generation when it comes to military applications. Because of their interchangeability and more practical designs, especially when compared to custom solutions, they suffer less from obsolescence.
A few upgrades to an older generation system can keep it running for 10 to 25 years. Many of the systems that utilize modular systems for electrical components are still in flight today because of the simple ability to upgrade one component at a time rather than requiring a complete overhaul of entire systems just for more power.
EMC Compliance Made Easy
EMI/EMC requirements bring another variable that can potentially provide numerous risks to the equation when trying to create reliable electrical systems. Custom-made solutions require going back to the drawing board to fulfill new requirements like those set by MIL-STD-461.
Modular component manufacturers have been able to adequately address the problem of increased noise in larger power supply systems by applying certain EMC filters to their components. These modules are independently rated to meet emissions specifications like MIL-STD-461C/D while offering varying degrees of input transient, and others meet even the strict guidelines set forth by MIL-STD-1275A and 704A.
Designing for Environmental Standards
Environmental concerns are another component that often weighs heavily when any electrical system is drafted. From the ground up, technology must be created to satisfy the requirements set forth to protect against humidity, free ions, fog, atmospheric decompression, vibration, shock, fungus and a plethora of other factors like those set forth in MIL-STD-800.
Other tests that place components under extreme environmental stress, such as MIL-STD-900 and MIL-STD-202 require that components and systems as a whole be able to withstand extreme conditions.
The best way to meet these standards is by simplifying the components used to meet or exceed them. Ambient cooling often becomes one of the best ways to accomplish this, as there are no moving parts nor additional levels of complexity created from the need for additional moving parts.
COTS manufacturers are able to address these challenges by incorporating designs that meet these standards at the component level. Mechanical rigidity, insulation from thermally conductive materials to eliminate or reduce hot spots, and a significantly improved heat transfer rate to the base plate of components are just a few advantages that these components can bring to make it substantially easier for engineers to design reliable systems that can stand up to any kind of environmental standard.
Simplifying Power Solutions for Military Applications
COTS components bring a number of advantages to the drafting board. Their unique design makes them more versatile, reliable and cost-efficient when compared to custom-made solutions while allowing the entire design process to be streamlined due to meeting standards at the component level.
Even in applications where a custom design must be used, the integration of COTS modules can allow that solution to become more viable for the long-term. This makes COTS modules and components one of the most dependable parts of any military-grade design in electrical systems.