The shortage, caused by supplies
depleted by many years of insufficient funding, first
surfaced when Central Command’s maintenance branch began packing
supplies for an anticipated war with Iraq. Batteries as other
supplies, were sent by ship on a two week voyage. More vital
cargo, such as fuel, was sent by Air Force cargo planes. When
combat operations started earlier than planned, batteries were
rushed to the theater, loaded onto Air Force cargo planes.
Eventually, 95 percent of the
BA 5590s were flown into
Kuwait. Delivering batteries to forward units, over the long
supply lines, was another challenge. In fact, until U.S.
forces secured forward airfields near Baghdad, Kirkuk and Umm Qasr,
there were no safe means of deliveries to forward troops. Forces
landed in Northern Iraq and East of Baghdad received their
supplies directly from Germany.
Due to the shortage in primary
batteries, troops were instructed to use rechargeable batteries,
previously used only for training. To support the operations,
units would have to forward deploy a battery charging van but none
was actually used operationally during the war. The Army is
looking at alternative power sources, for example, small and
flexible solar panels that could be folded and stored in a
soldier’s rucksack. In desert conditions, solar panels can be used
to recharge batteries or even run radios.
Combat lessons in Iraq have demonstrated the importance of users
understanding that batteries are not made equal. Different types
and capacities can provide extended usage. Furthermore, reliable
power reading of fresh and used batteries. Lithium batteries power
many systems, including the radio communications equipment
(PRC-119), the Javelin missile command and guidance system, rugged
portable computers, navigation systems, Chemical, Biological and
Radiological (CBR) sensors, Satellite Communications equipment,
night vision equipment, weapons sights and target acquisition
systems, and the command and guidance unit of the. The most common
battery is the BA 5590, which was also in the shortest supply.
battery is based on the Li/SO2 chemistry, in use the US Military
in communications applications over the past 10 - 15 years, as it
was the only lithium technology currently available that has a
proven successful record in combat situations.
a nominal 200 mA drain in typical use, the battery could provide
28 hours of operation at the minimum temperature. In ordinary
combat usage, the soldiers are instructed to change them before 24
hours of operation are experienced.
(Li/MnO2) cylindrical cell version of this battery has a capacity
of approximately 10 Ah. (The capacity of a Li/MnO2 pouch version,
which utilizes the full volume of the battery case, can be as high
as 12 Ah
– almost doubling the life of primary batteries). However, US
troops are using a different battery for training. The BB2590
Lithium-ion battery is rated at 5.6Ah. Soldiers get used to carry
four or five batteries to sustain a 24 hour combat training cycle
– the equivalent of one primary BA5590. Lithium-ion cells also
have integral capacity gauges so State of Charge (SoC)
of each battery was clearly presented to the user. When they
prepared for combat, soldiers were instructed not to take any
chances, and change the BA5590s at four hour intervals, therefore
quadrupling supply requirements.
If the soldiers training followed "train as you fight", such
precautions wouldn't be necessary as they would have better
confidence in their equipment.
The scramble to
find batteries and get them to troops fighting in Operation Iraqi
Freedom is leading to a policy review of non-rechargeable
batteries, as well as an examination of alternative power sources,
such as fuel cells and solar panels.