The US Army and Department of Defense (DoD) aim to achieve an all-electric, light-duty, non-tactical fleet by 2035. However, the electrification of tactical vehicles presents a more complex challenge in terms of operational value and logistical practicalities. One of the core considerations of electrifying the military’s tactical fleet is charging in the field and how this compares to current fueling procedures for combustion engines.
The Pentagon’s target, outlined in its Army Climate Strategy document, is to deploy purpose-built hybrid-drive tactical vehicles by 2035 and transition to all-electric vehicles by 2050 (LOE 2.2). Developing field charging capabilities for fully electric vehicles is also a priority (LOE 2.3). Beyond addressing climate change concerns, it’s important to explore why an electrified tactical fleet would benefit the military and how this objective can be achieved.
Tactical Advantages of Extending Viability of Military Electric Vehicles
The average energy required per soldier has grown by a factor of 20 since World War II. . As a result, delivering energy to operational theaters has emerged as one of the most significant risk factors for our forces. Notably, between October 2001 and December 2010, during Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF), 52% (18,700 out of 36,000) of all US casualties were the result of attacks on land transport missions.
To mitigate this risk and reduce the amount of energy that needs to be transported to operational theaters, deploying hybrid or all-electric tactical vehicles holds promise. However, the success of this approach hinges on the DoD developing tactical supercharging capabilities, especially those powered by carbon-pollution-free energy sources.
Carbon-pollution-free electricity is energy produced from resources that generate no carbon emissions, including solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, nuclear, and renewably sourced hydrogen. Utilizing such environmentally-friendly energy sources allows the military to reduce carbon emissions while fulfilling its operational energy requirements.
Reducing Supply Chain Vulnerability
Reducing troop vulnerability and loss of life is a primary concern for military planners as they consider the operational capabilities of combat units. Currently, tactical vehicles used during offensive operations rely on large 2,500-gallon diesel fuelers for refueling on the move. Bulk petroleum represents the single largest commodity by volume in the execution of large-scale combat operations. For example, an Army armored division uses as much as 600,000 gallons of fuel a day. During the height of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the total daily consumption reached approximately 15 million gallons.
In combat scenarios, fast-moving forces like an armored brigade combat team (ACBT) risk outrunning their supply lines and being forced to delay offensive operations. This limiting effect on operational capacity can also be caused by the vulnerability of lengthy supply chains, with potentially hundreds of miles separating major supply nodes from forward operating positions. Refueling tactical vehicles using a mobile recharging solution reduces dependence on these supply chains and gives units greater self-sufficiency.
Recent conflicts have shown the importance of combined arms (armor, artillery, infantry) working in close coordination, and advanced systems can facilitate that. However, to power these systems effectively, especially when hosted on mobile platforms such as military electric vehicles, the charging capacity in the field needs to be significantly enhanced.
Principles of War Strategy
Moving stealthily in a tactical environment without 'roaring' engines is a huge operational advantage, particularly since one of the principles of war is surprise. According to Clausewitz, surprise is essential in gaining superiority at the decisive point. By eliminating or minimizing the use of combustion engines, military electric vehicles significantly reduce noise.
Further in the list of operational advantages, electric vehicles emit lower sonic and thermal signatures, which allows for silent reconnaissance watch without affecting onboard capabilities.
Implementing tactical supercharging capabilities for a hybrid or all-electric tactical military fleet supports the DoD’s core goal of achieving tactical self-sufficiency. These goals aim to reduce the Army’s energy requirements and how much of that energy is supplied through traditional distribution networks.
Tactical self-sufficiency will support independent, distributed, and echeloned maneuvers in future contested environments. At the same time, work between the Army, private industry, and academia will develop improved capacity for charging in the field, including power generation and distribution systems, to support the maneuver of Army forces in austere environments.
Military electric vehicles and enhanced field charging capabilities deliver several advantages to the military. These include reduced reliance on vulnerable supply chains, which are both the leading cause of harm for service members and a significant tactical constraint. Additionally, the integration of tactical self-sufficiency and the use of electrical charging in the field allows for greater maneuverability and risk reduction. Finally, electric tactical vehicles also deliver lower thermal and acoustic signatures, allowing for stealthy movement and giving units the advantage of surprise.
Enercon Engineering is a leading industry provider of tactical power solutions. We aim to equip the modern Warfighter with tactical mobile charging solutions that eliminate reliance on fossil fuels, contribute to commanders’ ability to achieve operational advantage and reduce logistic vulnerabilities associated with offensive operations.
To learn more about Enercon’s expertise and capabilities in tactical power solutions, contact us today.