The balance between the weight of kit against the ability to move quickly is a challenge for troops rapidly deploying on operations, especially so for airborne manoeuvres.
Soldiers with 14 Signal Regiment (Electronic Warfare) have looked to combat that issue with the use of flat-packed solar panels to help sustain them in the field for 72 hours.
Staff Sergeant Nicholas, of 226 Signal Squadron, said it was the first time this approach had been used by troops on foot to save on the amount of heavy batteries being loaded into their bergens.
“The biggest drama we always have is power sustainment, purely because our comms equipment has such a high power drain,” he said.
“To guard against this we usually deploy with 15 to 20 batteries to sustain ourselves for 72 hours and that takes the kit we parachute in with to the top end of what’s possible, which is 160kg.
“Over the last 12 months we’ve been looking at other options to reduce that weight while still delivering the power sustainment we need.” Staff Sergeant Nicholas, 226 Signal Squadron
“Over the last 12 months we’ve been looking at other options to reduce that weight while still delivering the power sustainment we need.”
Nicholas’s six-man light Electronic Warfare (EW) team were deployed with 16 Air Assault Brigade on Operation Fortis, which involved a Joint Theatre Entry from C130s with the Jordanian Armed Forces.
226 Signal Squadron are held at very-high readiness and provide airborne and light manoeuvre EW forces. The unit primarily operates on foot but also with vehicle-mounted elements in Jackals.
The solar panels unfold like large maps, so are very lightweight and can be packed neatly into the kit space.
Nicholas said the solar panels idea had been tested on Operation Newcombe (the British Army’s peacekeeping operations in Mali), but only in situ with vehicles and never before in this way.
He said: “We’re trialling 225-watt panels into the main charger unit and that allows us to either charge two of our batteries from it or to allow us to run our laptop from it.
“What we’re moving forward with is a wide-split lead and that same kit will then allow us to charge four batteries, which will massively reduce the burden on the team in terms of weight distribution and fits in with the Integrated Review’s Future Soldier intent of faster, leaner and more agile.”