The Army Is Shooting Battery Prototypes to Make Sure They Don't Catch Fire

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U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Edward French, a team sergeant in Alpha Company, 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, watches another Soldier's shooting technique while they fire at a zeroing target at Fort Custer, Michigan, Nov. 16, 2019. (U.S. Army/ Sgt. Adam Parent)
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Edward French, a team sergeant in Alpha Company, 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, watches another Soldier's shooting technique while they fire at a zeroing target at Fort Custer, Michigan, Nov. 16, 2019. (U.S. Army/ Sgt. Adam Parent)

Soldier power experts will soon conduct safety tests on improved versions of the Conformal Wearable Battery (CWB) that are designed to dramatically increase the time between recharges.

Currently, soldiers get about 150 watt hours of power from these flexible battery panels, which fit behind body armor vests. But future soldier technology, such as the experimental Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), will demand even more out of battery technology.

"We are trying to raise [capacity] as much as we can; we know we can get to 240 watt hours," said Lt. Col. Vince Morris, Product Manager for Ground Soldier Systems.

But to get there safely, the Army may have to compromise on the physical features of the CWB, he said, adding that the goal is to keep the battery's weight at its current 2.6 pounds.

Related: New Set of Gear Could Allow Soldiers to Ditch AA Batteries for Good

In the future, the CWB may lose some of its flexibility and get a little thicker, possibly going from .9 inch to one inch, Morris said.

But the real concern is whether these more powerful versions will catch fire if they are hit by a bullet, he explained.

"We are going to shoot prototypes in January," Morris said.

The three prototypes have "high safety measures, medium safety measures and low safety measures, and they are all 240-watt batteries," he said.

"The ones that are low safety mitigation -- they are going to catch on fire," Morris said. "We are shooting all three of them so we can actually get the data on them, and then we are going to take that data and make informed decisions."

The Combat Capabilities Development Command also plans to test updated versions of the CWB made with silicon anode, which can deliver the same amount of power with a 29% reduction in volume and weight, according to July 23 Army news release.

Versions of these CWBs will be used in the third Soldier Touchpoint evaluation of IVAS scheduled for July 2020. The high-tech IVAS glasses are designed to equip close-combat soldiers with a head-up display allowing them to view tactical maps, as well as their weapon-sight reticle. Army modernization officials hope to field IVAS in 2021.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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