By Dan Lafontaine, CCDC C5ISR Center Public AffairsJune 26, 2019
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (June 26, 2019) -- Army Futures Command, or AFC, has developed an intelligent power and energy architecture that enables the interoperability of multinational power systems during coalition operations.
AFC's subordinate command, the Combat Capabilities Development Command, integrated a tactical microgrid with Italy and Canada this June during Capable Logistician 2019, a multinational logistics exercise to test interoperability and assess NATO standards at Drawsko Pomorskie Training Grounds, Poland.
The exercise, which included approximately 3,450 troops and representatives from 30 nations, demonstrated several innovative, "smart energy" technologies with the potential to reduce fuel waste, improve operational effectiveness and enhance interoperability among NATO forces.
The integration was the first example of a multinational tactical microgrid using an open standard for power source hardware and software interoperability. It was one of two "major break-through successes" during the exercise, noted Dr. Susanne Michaelis, an Energy Security Officer in NATO's Emerging Security Challenges Division.
"We measured a 90 percent fuel reduction compared to powering the tents 24/7 with diesel generators only. The results are significant, [but] they must… become even more flexible and modular because we talk about NATO alliances -- multinational structures -- that must acquire [and] share. I hope that the smart energy projects will take on more and more in the next two years, and that they will be able to…further [improve] military capabilities," said Michaelis, who noted that the lessons learned from the exercise will be the basis for future improvements in NATO policies and standards.
The integration demonstrated the effectiveness of the Tactical Microgrid Standard, or TMS, which is a key step leading to a NATO Standardization Agreement for power architectures that would enable a smarter, more efficient, mobile, resilient and interoperable electrical grid among NATO members.
TMS was developed by the Tactical Microgrid Standards Consortium and the CCDC's center for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance -- or C5ISR.
"Standard power architectures need to be built so our international partners can develop and share power sources during coalition missions. When we follow the same set of rules, our power and energy systems can all talk to each other," said Blane Wilson, an electronics engineer in C5ISR Center's Command, Power and Integration Directorate, or CP&ID. "Once the standardization agreement is ratified, it can feed into all U.S. military procurements of advanced power and capabilities."
Since 2018, the U.S. Army has sought to enhance operational readiness through a series of multinational exercises focused on interoperability. It is also a key concern for the Office of the Secretary of Defense Operational Energy.
"Standardizing intelligent power architectures will enable adaptable coalition fighting and lead to improvements in the logistics trail during Army multi-domain operations, resulting in better sustainability, mobility, and fighting effectiveness," said Elizabeth Ferry, chief for CP&ID's Power Division.
Intelligent power architectures join power sources together while seamlessly matching power generation output with energy consumption needs from users. They also network power sources together through intelligent distribution systems that are capable of monitoring and communicating power data.
"Compared with current spot-generation techniques, intelligent power architectures will save a drastic amount of fuel as they can turn generators on or off based on user loads. The generators that are running are operating more efficiently with reduced noise, fuel consumption and heat," Ferry said. "However, it's important to note that this architecture also allows other power technologies, like energy storage and vehicles, to hybridize to traditional generators to allow further fuel reductions and flexibility in the use of available power sources."
The research for standardized power and energy architectures and interfaces has been done through CP&ID's Energy Informed Operations, or EIO project. Under EIO, CP&ID's Power Division is building intelligent, efficient, robust, flexible, mobile and interoperable power systems and technologies for enhanced mission effectiveness.
Developing and implementing advanced intelligent power architectures will serve a critical role as the Army's modernization priorities require energy sources that are smarter with greater agility, said Frank W. Bohn, an electronics engineer in the Power Division.
"Advanced power architectures will extend the duration of operations and enable Soldiers to perform their missions with fewer power sources," Bohn said.
"The breadth of EIO research and development has been a major building block for this standard that enables open communications and interfaces between components," Bohn said. "The goal is to create an open architecture that will allow for better capabilities in the short term, and in the long term spur industry innovation and competition to further equip the warfighter with state-of-the-art power generation equipment."
The implementation of open standards will have a range of benefits, Bohn said. An open-standard architecture will bring plug-and-play compatibility to allow the American defense industry and U.S. allies to develop new technology benefiting Soldiers. Capabilities can be more easily upgraded, and complex compatibility challenges are removed.
"We're eliminating the need for proprietary hardware and software. Any company will have the ability to build tactical power equipment that will have the capability for plug-and-play into an intelligent power architecture as long as it conforms to the published standards," Bohn said. "Soldiers will get better technology at a faster rate as more companies are able to compete."
The EIO project has used seven demonstrations and testing events, including Network Integration Evaluation and Base Camp Integration Lab, to capture feedback from Soldiers who will use these capabilities in the field. The knowledge gained from these demonstrations has been transferred to programs of record, such as the Army Project Manager Expeditionary Energy and Sustainment Systems and the U.S. Marine Corps, and has been used to inform requirements. The EIO program has also transitioned some capabilities across the services.
The EIO team is planning another demonstration in 2020 to show the program's applicability to multi-domain operations at Exercise Rim of the Pacific, a U.S. Navy-led event with 15 participating countries.
The C5ISR Center is the Army's applied research and advanced technology development center for C5ISR capabilities. As the Army's primary integrator of C5ISR technologies and systems, the center develops and matures capabilities that support all six Army modernization priorities, enabling information dominance and tactical overmatch for the joint warfighter.
The C5ISR Center is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, CCDC leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation's wars and come home safely. CCDC is a major subordinate command of the U. S. Army Futures Command.