Army project manager providing more power with smaller footprint
September 4, 2011
By Amy Walker
The Army is working to leverage its principal power distribution system to quench its thirst for power with less equipment than the current paradigm demands.
Power Distribution Illumination System Electrical (PDISE), often described as a more rugged version of a home electrical distribution box, enables Project Manager Mobile Electric Power (PM MEP) to save taxpayer dollars by reducing footprint and increasing the efficiency of power on the battlefield through better distribution.
"The biggest benefit of PDISE to the Warfighter is a reduced footprint," said Alan Coady, PM MEP Readiness Management Division chief. "The Army can now cable and distribute power from a larger-size generator to provide 24-hour operation to a location versus the utilization of eight or 10 smaller generators needed to power the same area."
PM MEP, which is assigned to the Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T), is utilizing PDISE to improve power generation on the battlefield by shifting the paradigm of power. Historically, much of the equipment used in theater required its own generator. Today, PM MEP is working to centralize power in the Command Post using a smaller number of larger-sized generators coupled with its power distribution equipment to feed the same loads. Along with decreasing the logistical footprint of power on the battlefield, the effort will cut the number of generators the Army has to operate and maintain, and in the process, reduce fuel consumption.
"We have just about completed fielding Central Power to brigade combat teams (BCTs) and divisions (57 units) and are beginning to introduce it to multifunctional brigades and combat aviation brigades," Coady said. "So the requirement for PDISE just keeps growing."
By shifting the power paradigm in this way, each year the Army could save 275,000 gallons of fuel and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2,400 tons for each Division Main Command Post in its force structure. It could potentially save up to $150 million in five to 10 years during peacetime operations tempo or $200-$250 million for the same time period during high intensity conflict. In addition, 71,000 manhours could be saved annually by discontinuing the operation and maintenance of redundant power sources.
"With the ongoing military operations around the world, the demand for PDISE has never been greater," said Bob Thoens, PM MEP's Product Director for Large Power Sources.
PDISE was formally adopted by the Army in 1987 and in the last two years PM MEP has fielded roughly 12,000 PDISE systems to the active Army, National Guard and Army Reserve units. An additional 6,000 systems are expected to be fielded this year, with a slight decline next year since the documented requirements to date will already have been satisfied, Coady said.
"Imagine the circuit breaker panel in your house, militarized and upgraded to withstand tactical environments," said Rob Nutter, System of Systems Integration lead engineer for PM MEP. "PDISE is power distribution for the battlefield."
The PDISE system allows the Warfighter to effectively distribute power between power generation and powered equipment while optimizing generator usage. The system comes in two sizes of feeder boxes (100 and 200 Amps) and two sizes of distribution boxes (40 [three phase] and 60 [single phase] Amps), each with connecting cables, and a utility assembly of extension cords, branch circuits and lighting equipment.
"PDISE allows us to take power from the generator and break it down into different amperage levels," said Oral Walker, lead program engineer of Large Power Sources. "So it is able to provide different usage requirements from one generator unit."
The system is designed to work with any of the Army's standard generator sets including the older sets that are being retired, currently fielded products such as the Tactical Quiet Generators (TQG), and the new Advanced Medium Mobile Power Sources (AMMPS) generators, Coady said. The green light for the AMMPS program came in a July 20 Full Rate Production decision by Brig. Gen. N. Lee S. Price, PEO for C3T, coupled with a Full Materiel Release decision by Maj. Gen. Randolph P. Strong, Commanding General of the Communications-Electronics Command. Production will begin immediately, with the first units expected to arrive in Afghanistan in November.
The flexibility and adaptability of PDISE enables PM MEP to meet power requirements in theater with innovative solutions and cost effective practices.
"We've even been able to hook the system up to utility poles," said Nutter. "For example, last year during a communications interoperability exercise we were able to run power to the exercise right from the poles."
In Fiscal Year 2008 PM MEP sought the first commercial contract for the production of PDISE and awarded it to Fidelity Technologies Corporation, located in Reading, Pa., said Chris Bolton, PM MEP Technical Management Division chief. By moving to a commercial contract the PM greatly reduced the production unit cost of PDISE by 40 percent.
"When we transitioned the product to the commercial vendor, we got the product at a cheaper price and a higher quality," Thoens said.
Amy Walker is a staff writer for Symbolic Systems, Inc. supporting the Army's Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T).