CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina— Forward area refueling capability in combat zones can provide mission commanders a broader set of tactics to increase joint lethality and enhance agile combat employment.
To support Marine commanders, U.S. Army Ground Vehicle Systems Center engineers earlier this fall helped demonstrate man-portable hydrogen generation technology in an austere operational environment, showcasing a prototype designed to rapidly refuel Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and tactical vehicles along with other technologies which rely upon hydrogen as a fuel.
For the demo, GVSC brought a fuel cell electric Polaris Ranger and a fuel cell electric Polaris MRZR.
Bulk fuel transport, battery charging, and hydrogen tank transport are all logistically challenging in austere environments, explained Kevin Centeck, GVSC Branch Chief for Fuel Cell Technologies.
“Man-portable hydrogen production at the point of need can avoid the logistic challenges of bulk hydrogen fuel transport,” Centeck said.
Additionally, battery-powered platforms can have limited range, and hydrogen production currently requires large generator-powered electrolysis machines.
“Hydrogen could also extend a battery-powered platform’s range and operating time,” Centeck said.
The tactical hydrogen generation system, called a hydrogen tactical refueling point, or H-TaRP for short, was developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory.
“This technology has the potential to create an expeditionary system for the generation and delivery of hydrogen needed to power operations in support of the Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations / Distributed Maritime Operations tactical construct,” said Jason Payne, TechSolutions director at the Office of Naval Research Global.
The technology used for the hydrogen production requires mixing activated aluminum pellets with water to produce high-pressure hydrogen within 30 minutes and dispense it into a hydrogen fuel tank 20 times per day.
Payne said recycled aluminum can be used and activated either at a supply depot or in the field.
“The H-TaRP is designed to be easily purged and refueled by a minimally trained Marine,” Payne said.
In the coming weeks, as Marines consider how to make use of such a hydrogen generation system, GVSC will be gathering their feedback to support developing tactics, techniques, and procedures, and technology employment options.