As discussed here, Australia is experimenting with light-weight solar panels to replace batteries carried by soldiers. The goal is to reduce the weight soldiers carry. The panels can be stuck to clothing, helmets, or tents, and they can be rolled up and stored when not in use. Similar studies are underway in Britain, and a U.S. Marine Corps battalion already uses solar panels to reduce battery weight.
The article mentions that the average soldier carries half a kilogram, or about one pound, in batteries. While this may seem like a small amount, any reduction in weight would be appreciated, I’m sure.
Nevertheless, what if these cells can be networked? Wouldn’t that lead to a big logistics advantage, if instead of carting in batteries and fuel for generators, solar panels can be networked and used to provide power for multiple soldiers? Now, obviously, such power would require the development of a few more generations of solar power cells, but it’s an interesting idea.
What if solar power allowed for a greater number of forward operating bases (FOBs) or for increased deployment of Special Forces? Might this be part and parcel of a more diffuse, but networked future military force? This might prove particularly useful in a counter-insurgency setting or a planetary colonization effort, where forces should deploy widely.
Might solar panels help reduce a heat signature? I don’t know much about whether or to what extent solar panels give off ambient heat, but I would guess it would be less than a generator, making it easier to conceal troops (further assuming the panels don’t give off a glare).
What if you are a soldier at an isolated FOB, dependent on solar panels, and they get destroyed? Might the switch to solar power produce a change in tactics by the enemy? Almost assuredly, so what sort of redundancy will be built into this system? Spare panels? Panels that can be repaired?
What do you think of solar-powered soldiers? How do you think it would affect combat operations or logistics? What do you think of the military pushing the envelope with respect to green technology?