UNITAS: In the PEAK of Fuel Economy
By Dialogo January 09, 2013
United States and Latin American militaries participating in the UNITAS-Partnership of the Americas witnessed a first at the 2012 iteration of this U.S. Southern Command exercise: the presentation of energy efficient equipment and technologies adapted for tactical operations.
During the event, conducted at Camp Blanding, Florida, from September 2 – 16, 2012, more than 1,500 service members from the U.S. and 10 Southern Command Partner Nations from South and Central America had the opportunity to attend demonstrations of the Pre-positioned Expeditionary Assistance Kit (PEAK), the Ground Renewable Expeditionary Energy Networks (GREEN), and the Solar Portable Alternative Communications Energy System (SPACES).
PEAK, in particularly, was purposely developed by a team of engineers under the coordination of SOUTHCOM’s Science, Technology and Experimentation Division to provide portable water purification, renewable power generation, communications and situational awareness capabilities that are key both in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in remote areas, as well as in real world military operations. The system was first tested at the end of 2011 by a group of Honduran and U.S. Military in Joint Task Force Bravo (JTF-B), Honduras, a country that is frequently battered by merciless mudslides, floods, and other weather-related harshnesses.
This time, in Florida, U.S. and Paraguayan Marines, as well as U.S. Army soldiers received a four-day training package on how to use the different capabilities that PEAK brings to the table, such as providing potable water from any water source to include salt water, renewable solar power, and communication networks that can save the day when water sources become contaminated as well as when power lines, phone lines and cell towers are down. This expeditionary system also provides Internet-based tools such as geomapping of pictures and messages to determine what resources are necessary to react to a particular problem, and determine where to focus the resources. The training was followed by a capabilities demonstration to senior leadership representatives from Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay.
The other two technologies presented at UNITAS- Partnership of the Americas were providing power to the forward Battalion Aid Station and Motor Pool Dispatch Office tents supporting the exercise. Both portable systems, SPACES and GREEN operate by converting solar energy into electrical power. According to Captain Mark Minella, with U.S Marine Corps Forces, South (MARFORSOUTH), both technologies have been employed by Marine units in Afghanistan to help decrease fuel consumption at forward operating bases.
SPACES is a lightweight system composed of collapsible solar panels and batteries that can provide power for tent lights, laptops, and tactical radios, among other equipment. Its portability allows for recharging on the go, and cuts down on the need to take extra radio batteries into the field. On its part, GREENS is 300-watt, photovoltaic/battery system perfect for attaining a significant cut down in fuel use at larger sites.
Both the technological demonstration and trainings at UNITAS-Partnership of the Americas 2012 were organized by MARFORSOUTH’s Logistics Division, in coordination with Headquarters Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office, U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command and USSOUTHCOM Science, Technology and Experimentation Division, which are all committed to look for ways to lessen the military footprint in the environment. “Our goal with PEAK and PEAK-like systems is to improve expeditionary capability. This includes the ability to forward deploy for contingencies with reduced footprint and low-cost infrastructure. Our efforts in this area, sponsored by the Department’s Science and Technology portfolio, is to look to the future to bring new and innovative concepts to improve the sustainment of operating forces while minimizing the requirements on fossil fuels and the impact on the environment,” concluded Juan Hurtado, director of the SOUTHCOM’s Science, Technology and Experimentation Depatment and science advisor to the command.