MoD in push for alternative military energy tech
Camouflage green includes brown and black
The UK armed forces are looking to make a shift away from fossil fuels and into a range of alternative energy sources, according to reports. This is born as much from concerns over prices and security of supplies as any green motivation.
The Sunday Times reports that Paul Stein, MoD science/tech honcho, outlined the new camo-green thinking in a speech to the Royal Aeronautical Society in London last week.
Specific notions discussed included the use of synthetic fuel for aircraft. The US Air Force, alarmed by its dependence on crude oil from volatile regions such as Nigeria and the Gulf, has already certified several of its aircraft fleets to use synthetic liquid fuel made from coal or natural gas. This move is actually much less green - in terms of CO2 equivalent emissions - than using ordinary jetfuel, as a tonne of feedstock is normally burned in the conversion plant for each tonne of juice produced. The move is more brown, or even black, than it is green.
However, coal and gas for synthi-fuel are seen as possibly cheaper and easier to obtain than crude from the potentially war-torn African and Arabian/Persian coasts.
In the longer run, many in the aviation world hope that jet fuel could be made from sources such as saltwater algae. This would avoid the controversial use of food crops, the uncertainties of crude oil and the heavy carbon burden of fossil synthetics. However, algae able to grow in seawater without carbon-intensive fertilisers seem a long way off.
Other future MoD ploys, according to Stein, might include the use of biodiesel made from hardy jatropha plants which can grow in deserts. Such fuel might one day run the powerplants of British warships and tanks, though again there are obstacles ahead. Ultra-lightweight aircraft like the Qinetiq Zephyr testbed - now a contender in the US "Vulture" programme - might run instead on solar power.
The MoD is already, of course, a major UK user of secure low-carbon energy. The Royal Navy's latest submarines, the Astute class, will run on nuclear power for 25 years without refuelling at all, enabling them to ignore fuel supply issues during their operational life.
Apart from diversifed energy sources, the MoD also wants to big up certain other forms of new technology. In particular, there is apparently a desire for more unmanned aircraft able to carry weapons. At present, the UK has two Reaper drones which could be armed, but aren't. The new Watchkeeper aircraft due in service soon won't be able to carry weapons as it is too small. Under the Taranis project, however, Blighty will develop a small robot stealth bomber able to fly an entire mission including weapons delivery without human input.
Another key desire is the development of armoured vehicles which are invulnerable to likely enemy weapons and yet light enough to be air freighted. This goal is proving extremely difficult to achieve for war-wagon designers at present.
Read the Sunday Times report here. ®
Nuke power war ships?
If they already use nuclear powered subs what’s the problem behind using the same technology for war ships? This could create the lowest carbon emission navies in the world then
Small, unmanned robot stealth bomber ....
Otherwise known as a "missile". Umm, we've had these for quite a while, chaps ...
Cruise missiles have long range and loiter time, so what is the point of spending money on the aforesaid bomber? Gung-ho types will tell you the integrated sensor package and target discrimination logic will make for a more effective mission, per kilogram of ordnance carried. Then again, you could just use a grunt with GPS and a radio (or datalink, these days) to do your spotting at a fraction of the cost and with greater accuracy. It never ceases to amaze me that "we" always choose the most amazingly expensive way to do something.
Ah, but wait, this actually does make sense if you factor in the ability to control them by SkyNet ..... yes, that's it, just one more step toward the inevitable annihilation of the human race by autonomous killing machines.
The Royal Navy.
Being out at sea away from obstructions most of the time, maybe they should consider wind power.
Oh, wait a minute............