An Intro to Tactical Electric Power
Updated: Nov 28, 2022
Tactical electric power (TEP) describes all mobile electrical power creation that meets the standards set forth by the Department of Defense. It’s represented by a number of fossil-fuel generators of various sizes, along with other energy sources, including thermophotovoltaic, turbines, and fuel cells.
Some examples of commonly used tactical electrical power systems (STEP, AMMPS, LAMPS) and their load capacity include:
Military Tactical Generators (MTG) @ 2kW
Tactical Quiet Generators (TQG) @ 3kW
Medium Generators @ 5, 10, 15, 30, and 60kW
Large Generators @ 100-200kW
Deployable Power Generation and Distribution System (DPGDS) @ 840kW
The Army now uses 20 times more energy per soldier than it did at the end of World War II, and experts recommend that energy considerations be factored into all computer wargaming. Providing tactical energy is not just about maintaining operational capacity in the field, as lapses in power can cause significant risk to life. Tactical electrical power is, therefore, a primary consideration for the armed forces, especially as functions and equipment grow and evolve.
Use cases for tactical electric power
Tactical electric power is a critical strategic asset for all branches of the military, especially the Army, as it allows units to operate to their full capacity on the battlefield. It also enables command and control, forward base operations, and other essential functions.
On an operational level, this tactical electric power is key to a number of capabilities, such as:
Tactical operations centers and forward operating bases: Virtually all military planning and coordination capacity depends on tactical electric power. C5ISR (command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) relies on a steady energy supply. The importance of reliable TEP will only increase as the military incorporates more new technologies, such as data sensors and edge computing.
Missile defense operations and lasers: Missile defense and laser systems, like LAWS or HELIOS, require extensive support equipment and command centers and use a lot of energy.
Electric tactical vehicles: Ground combat vehicles will remain a core element of mobile tactical operations for the foreseeable future. For reasons including environmental concerns and operational range advantages, the Army aims to have hybrid tactical vehicles by 2035 and fully electric vehicles by 2050. These will require recharging in the field, which will require significant capacity. For example, an armored brigade combat team would require the chemical energy equivalent of 18,800 MWh for a 12-day operation and an even higher load capacity to ensure simultaneous vehicle charging.
Extending operational range: One of the core focuses of the recent National Academies report on tactical power was increasing self-sustainability from three days to seven. The mobility of units in the field can be severely constricted by energy transportation, so the ability to create energy in the field delivers significant operational advantages.
7 Considerations for tactical electric power
Tactical electric power is essential for maintaining operational capacity, enhancing unit mobility, and keeping soldiers safe, and several factors must be considered when deploying it in the field.
1. Vulnerability: Power supplies are high-value targets for adversaries, and many tactical electric power sources and distribution networks can be disabled with relative ease. Countermeasures to the threat of attack include building redundancies into tactical electric power generation systems and using distributed energy resources.
2. Noise abatement: Fossil-fuel generators are physically loud, which has tactical considerations, especially for forward-operating bases in volatile locations.
3. Fuel efficiency: Incorporating more efficient energy sources into tactical electrical power systems can reduce logistics requirements, improve maneuverability, and minimize the carbon footprint of operations. Battery storage can allow tactical electrical power to take advantage of efficient energy sources leading to greater overall fuel efficiency while maintaining operational capacity and advantages in the field.
4. Environmental considerations: The move to reduce the military’s carbon footprint requires reductions in its use of fossil fuels, primarily the burning of JP-8 and diesel. For tactical electric power, this means incorporating other energy sources into systems. These include generator fuels such as biodiesel or methanol and energy sources like solar, wind, and hydrokinetic.
5. Battery storage/charging: As batteries improve in efficiency and new types come online, such as magnesium-ion and lithium-sulfur, their use in TEP setups will increase in line with modernization efforts. In current situations, tactical electric power generators will be expected to charge batteries for operational activities and tactical and non-tactical hybrid vehicles.
6. Redundancy: Overlapping energy resources are essential for maintaining critical loads at all times during operations. This requires building redundancies into tactical electrical power, for example, having photovoltaic, TQGs, larger generators, and battery power available over the load requirements. In the case of one source going offline, the built-in redundancy will ensure critical assets are reliably powered, with smart switchboards maintaining demand hierarchy where necessary.
7. Expeditionary nuclear power: With the increasing need for TEP in all operational situations, but with the weight of batteries and difficulty of charging fully electric combat vehicles in the field being considerable constraints, the DOD has been investigating the possibility of tactical nuclear reactors. These mobile nuclear power plants (MNPP) could provide 2MWe of power, which is the scale needed to fully recharge an all-electric armored vehicle unit. However, since this concept won’t be feasible before 2035 and takes three days to set up and two days to cool down, its practicality outside of semi-stationary bases may be limited.
We deliver TEP to the US military
Tactical electric power is the mobile electrical energy resource used to power critical command functions, defense systems, and operational capacity. Electrical energy usage per soldier is always increasing. Additionally, the current generation of tactical electric power sources, such as Tactical Quiet Generators (TQGs), are being replaced by third-generation systems such as LAMPS, which have much higher output capacity.
To find out more about how Enercon has successfully delivered TEP to the US military and partner nations, read more about our work on the THAAD-PPU missile defense system. Contact us today to learn more about our tactical power capabilities.