news | 7 December 2023

Department of Defense To Prototype Commercial Lithium Batteries for Soldier Power, Aviation, and Ground Vehicles

The AH-1Z Viper, which houses the Teledyne/CASES battery.

Strengthening energy supply-chains with a Family of Advanced Standard Batteries 

This article has been updated

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA (December 7, 2023) — As the need for reliable energy storage technologies grows, the Department of Defense (DOD) faces complex supply chain challenges, sole source dependency concerns, variable procurement practices, and high costs that all contribute to life-cycle management challenges for DOD batteries. 

The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), the U.S. Army’s Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR) Center and Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC), the Department of the Navy Operational Energy (DON-OE) and Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), have partnered with the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) on the Family of Advanced Standard Batteries (FAStBat) project to accelerate the adoption of domestic or friendshored, commercially-proven lithium battery technologies for common-use applications across three DOD domains: soldier-portable systems, ground vehicles, and aviation.

“These investments are targeted at meeting the Department’s largest battery demand needs,” says Eric Shields, Senior Battery Advisor for Industrial Base Policy, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition & Sustainment. “Not only will FAStBat accelerate the adoption of domestic commercial technologies by DOD Programs of Record, but these formats will also be foundational as we build interoperable solutions with our allies and partners.”

DIU has issued 10 FAStBat awards to standardize lighter, safer, and longer-life batteries for dismounted warfighters. Operational loads with tactical electronics — sometimes  requiring multiple forms of energy storage — can include as much as 20 pounds of batteries. FAStBat is also awarding companies to prototype a lithium version of the 6T battery that today powers 80-90% of ground vehicles, according to Laurence Toomey, Branch Chief at U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, Ground Vehicle Systems Center. Lastly, FAStBat is awarding companies to prototype standard aviation batteries to address power needs, cost and redundancy in helicopters and fighter jets:

  • Bren-Tronics, Inc. will partner with DIU to develop and manufacture rechargeable battery packs using high-capacity, safety-tested cells. These batteries power communications equipment, sensors, surveillance equipment, thermal imagers and robotic systems critical to tactical missions.

  • Enersys will adapt their commercial prismatic lithium-ion cell chemistry and proven DOD / Space 18650 cell designs to prototype a high-energy Li6T battery. Leveraging the economies of scale from Enersys’ commercial production capabilities will provide DOD with a high-quality domestic source of cells at a competitive price.

  • EXO Charge, a division of Xentris Wireless, will prototype the Small Tactical Universal Battery (STUB) that allows warfighters to swap batteries between devices, or transfer power between batteries, a game-changer for mobility in combat. 

  • NanoGraf will prototype a high-energy, rugged and scalable 18650 cell design that promises to lighten load for warfighters. Planned North American production of NanoGraf cells incorporating novel silicon anode material is expected to alleviate supply chain risk for thousands of fielded DOD systems.

  • Pale Blue Earth will prototype a high-energy, militarized Operational Single Cell for Accessory Readiness (OSCAR) AA-equivalent,14500 battery design. The domestically produced battery incorporates a Lithium/Silicon anode cell chemistry and customized battery management system with advanced features, functions, attributes and benefits for the Warfighter.

  • SAFT Aerospace, Defense & Performance, a division of SAFT America, will adapt their proprietary LMFP advanced phosphate chemistry to prototype a high-energy Li6T battery. The higher voltage and energy density will afford performance gains with reduced weight and cost for the DOD, while improving access to US designed and manufactured Li-ion technology.

  • Stryten Energy will prototype a common-use module between the Li6T ground vehicle battery and CASES aviation battery, thereby lowering production and assembly costs for preferred batteries across DOD service domains. Stryten expertise in dual-use lithium-ion technology will help optimize performance, safety, and supply-chain security for tactical vehicles and rotor-craft.

  • Sunlight Group Energy Systems will partner with DIU to develop and manufacture rechargeable Soldier-Ruckable battery packs for communications equipment, sensors, surveillance equipment, thermal imagers and robotic systems. Sunlight's 9 GWh battery manufacturing facility in Greece is joined by major lithium-ion battery assembly and automation investments in North Carolina to produce motive power batteries for DOD and commercial customers.

  • Teledyne Technologies will prototype  Common Affordable and Safe Energy Storage (CASES) batteries using their novel cell cooling technology engineered for the highest safety and cycle life. Teledyne and the CASES program will afford enhanced capabilities for strike, air superiority, ISR and countermeasure missions.

  • Thales Defense and Security will prototype the Small Tactical Universal Battery (STUB) interoperable with sensitive tactical radios, allowing warfighters to swap batteries between devices, or transfer power between batteries. Thales is the first company qualifying the M38 NanoGraf cells using the South 8 LiGas electrolyte produced on E-One Moli Energy production line for the Army Leader Radio.

DIU's FAStBat effort helps meet the National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries 2021-2030 objective to “develop form-fit-function battery standards for defense, EV, and grid applications” and a 2030 objective to “meet critical defense battery demand with multiple-source domestic suppliers.”

By 2027 DIU anticipates FAStBat will support full North American production of 18650 cells for the common family of military batteries supporting warfighters.  All FAStBat companies manufacture their batteries at North American plants: NanoGraf anode materials in Chicago, IL; Bren-Tronics, Inc. in Commack, NY; EXO Charge in Addison, IL; Enersys in Horsham, PA; and Teledyne in Redlands, CA.