Generic Base Architecture and FOBEX

FOBEX

In September last year a wrote about the Generic Vehicle Architecture (GVA) and how it is probably one of the smartest things the MoD has done recently, how it will have a profound effect on future costs and capabilities in the vehicle fleet and that the MoD will receive almost no publicity or credit for doing so.

FOBEX
FOBEX

In addition to vehicles, the same concept has been applied to bases and soldier equipment as part of the Land Open Systems Architecture (LOSA)

LOSA
LOSA

GBA is defined in Def-Stan 23-13 as an open standard that defines interfaces to power, data, water, waste and fuel.

Forward bases are the stock in trade of an Army, at the end of Herrick IX in April 2009 the British Army had 55 in Afghanistan and by November 2010 this number had risen to 132. Fuel in particular is a major concern, with these forward bases in 2009 accounting for only 3% of actual fuel used but 25% of the fully burdened fuel cost, this latter figure includes the cost of transport and force protection.

Base Laydown
Base Laydown

The various life support needs such as water, waste and hygiene are considerable and where numerous systems exist in isolation waste and incompatibility will be the result.

Force protection needs, Base ISTAR for example, all need to be united into a coherent environment.

GBA, therefore, seeks to define all elements of a base into single system rather than a collection of disparate parts. The ultimate goal is to reduce construction time, personnel used for life support activities and fuel usage whilst offering capability improvements across each element.

LOSA
LOSA

Ambitious

So, GBA is as important as any major project, despite it being a low key and poorly funded activity.

LOSA will be the major theme of this year’s Defence Vehicle Dynamics event.

GBA2 (FOBEX) was a demonstration exercise that involved many organisations and had a wide ranging remit.

FOBEX10 is seeking to identify potential enhancements to the Tactical Base (TB) capability, specifically in the establishment of an integrated system of a ‘30 person Patrol Base (PB)’and (tba) Control Points (CP) from ‘green field’ to levels 1 and 2, and the subsequent removal/disassembly

FOBEX 10 could provide a specific experimentation opportunity for interoperability and infrastructure rationalisation around ground based ISTAR and ‘Sense and Warn’ equipment.

FOBEX10 will be an evaluation of industry claims that FOB’s can be built differently (i.e. quicker, better, cheaper, or better managed). These alternatives constructs are to consider, but not be constrained by, the themes of the Land Open System Architecture functional model, and current thinking on sub-component elements includes addressing the following:

  • Improved quality of infrastructure
  • Waste disposal
  • Power supply and distribution, including vehicle delivered power
  • Water management including treatment testing and bottling, recycling and storage
  • Alternative Force Protection Engineering approaches
  • Precision air dispatch,
  • Immediate medical support
  • Integrated Survivability Systems
  • Helicopter Landing Site (HLS) dust reduction
  • Expedient resurfacing
  • Laundry
  • Winterisation
  • Cover from view capability

Team Castrum was led by Selex Galileo Battlespace solutions and included Marshall Land Systems who provided perimeter surveillance using their Trakkar unmanned ground vehicle (based on the Hobo) fitted with a 3m Clark mast, Roke Resolve EW package and Chess Dynamics Owl surveillance equipment.

The Trakkar has also been demonstrated with a Nordic Power Systems fuel cell auxiliary power unit

Silent diesel fuel cell generator developed by Nordic Power with Marshall support installed on a Trakkar
Silent diesel fuel cell generator developed by Nordic Power with Marshall support installed on a Trakkar
Marshall Land Systems TRAKKAR
Marshall Land Systems TRAKKAR

From the press release

The fuel cell generator is targeted at users requiring virtually silent auxiliary power to keep batteries at peak operating condition.  In the situation depicted on the stand the fuel cell, producing 1kW, is providing sufficient power to maintain the batteries of Trakkar® at peak power so that when the vehicle needs to operate in silent mode it is ready to do so.

The diesel fuel generators are based on a Nordic Power patented technology, named “Cool Flame”. The primary role of the generator is expected to be as an auxiliary power unit to extend and enhance silent watch capability and duration.

“The current development programme is producing an integrated standalone advanced technology demonstrator.  At present it is producing 1kW, sufficient to charge batteries, but as the technology is scalable our long term ambition is to produce up to 10kW

The diesel fuel cell at present produces 1kW has a 28 volt output, noise levels of less than 45dBA at 2m and is at least as efficient as a standard diesel generator.

Marshall LS also demonstrated their Safebase deployable armoured sangar.

Marshall Land Systems Safebase Armoured sangar at FOBEX
Marshall Land Systems Safebase Armoured sangar at FOBEX

Base security was provided from a Marshall Safebase deployable armoured sangar fitted with a Selex remote weapon station. A sensor fit could also be deployed.  Safebase is based on a 10ft Marshall shelter with a rising sentry position, which can be lifted into position in 30 seconds.  Once deployed the space in the base of the tower can have multiple uses.  It can for example serve as a mini operations room or as an RWS control station

The Selex RWS was the Enforcer model.

Also on show, the Observer 100 is a trailer borne surveillance system using thermal imaging, daylight cameras and radar than can operate for 30 days without refuelling (when operating off grid) and setup in no more than 10 minutes.

Selex Observer 100 at FOBEX
Selex Observer 100 at FOBEX

Other partners in Team Castrum were IBM, Paradigm, SELEX Communications, MIRA, Rolls Royce, DRS Technologies, NSC, Hertel, BAE Systems and SELEX Galileo.

The recent PowerFOB exercises in Wales and the Episkopi training area in Cyprus demonstrated appropriate GBA technologies but with a focus on power efficiency. Over 30 companies showed a wide variety of technologies.

PowerFOB recognised that a range of technologies would be needed to meet the desired objective of a 50% reduction in fuel use. Better management of generators, renewables and storage would all play a part.

The trials were split into three load classifications; 500W plus for sensors, 5KW for small tactical bases and 50KW for medium tactical bases. Although these thresholds were set for the trials it was emphasised there is nothing typical about each base, solutions should be scalable and modular.

All equipment was required to be transportable in 20ft ISO containers, robust and able to operate with minimal supervision or skilled maintenance personnel. All the solutions would ultimately need to be GBA compliant so that performance and usage data could be transmitted to a single situational awareness display or to other locations.

Using a baseline provided by a similar sized FOB in Afghanistan (FOB Catina) the demonstration showed;

  • Energy storage produced a 22 per cent fuel saving
  • Energy storage plus demand management produced a 37 per cent fuel saving
  • Energy storage plus demand management plus renewables gave 40–50 per cent fuel saving depending on mix of renewables that were used.

CK Solar showed a solar thermal collector

Kraft Maus showed an 8KVa mobile hybrid wind/solar/fossil power platform.

In fuel burn tests, a conventional, 2kW light generator burned 0.6l/kWh of diesel, whilst the Kraft Maus 8kVA burned 0.2l/kWh on its first run of 36 hours, with a total output of 53kWh. It provided 84kWh totally fuel free power for the five day performance test.

Kraft Maus 8Kva Wind and Solar Generator at FOBEX
Kraft Maus 8Kva Wind and Solar Generator at FOBEX

Tradewind Turbines showed their transportable wind turbine.

Tradewinds turbine being unloaded from an ISO Container at FOBEX
Tradewinds turbine being unloaded from an ISO Container at FOBEX
Tradewinds turbine at FOBEX
Tradewinds turbine at FOBEX

Silicon CPV had on display an integrated solar/conventional power system.

Silicon CPV at FOBEX
Silicon CPV at FOBEX

As a means of reducing power demand energy efficient shelters were also shown, the Fortis Shelter from Hertel for example.

Even relatively minor improvements in energy use all add up; moving to lower voltage DC instead of transforming AC down, induction hubs, LED lighting, solar helicopter pad lights that charge during the day and are used at night, glycol refrigeration and low power laundry systems.

Making sure generators are selected on likely loads rather than over sizing which then results in low utilisation and inefficiency is another challenging aspect.

With the increasing use of COTS/MOTS networking, data processing, storage and display systems in bases, a great deal of which is AC, we expend fuel cooling the device and suffer losses because the equipment itself can usually run perfectly on lower voltage DC. It is reckoned that saving 1 watt at the equipment saves another 3 in cooling and other losses.

Sun have a 2Tb storage server that uses only 300 watts for example but is any of this kind of technology being integrated into the numerous data systems, ground control stations and other equipment for example?

Bases start with construction, not smart sensors or wind turbines so a range of building and infrastructure materials have also been trialled, the ubiquitous Hesco Bastion being joined by modular building systems, matting and fortification materials like cuplock sangars or concrete cloth.

Concrete Cloth Layed by Soldiers at FOBEX Demonstration
Concrete Cloth Layed by Soldiers at FOBEX Demonstration

Enhanced Protection Systems (EPS), of Springer fame, showed the Stalwart protected weapon station.

EPS Stalwart at FOBEX
EPS Stalwart at FOBEX
EPS Stalwart at FOBEX
EPS Stalwart at FOBEX

Despite the allure of all this exciting technology we might achieve similar efficiencies if we simply manage what we have better, improve efficiency, make sure the dots are joined and never forget the human elements of leadership and good equipment care.

That said, the ubiquitous puffing billy might also be overdue for replacement, to the relief of eyebrows everywhere!

FOB life puffin billy

Hawkmoor Self Powered Water Boiler
Hawkmoor Self Powered Water Boiler

Read more about PowerFOB here and a few videos to end on.

It seems that no one system is a magic bullet, careful selection of technologies with integration between them with GBA compliance being the underpinning logic.

Although the MoD has perhaps been a little less bold than US forces who seem to be able to get kit into theatre on a trial basis much quicker than us the but are working to different constraints and the more cautious and considered approach means that kit should, in theory, get to theatre in a much more coherent manner with all the constituent parts having an effect greater than the sum of their parts. That said, the UK is far in advance of the US in other areas, generator use and management being one notable example.

LOSA
LOSA

There is loads of good work going on in with the parallel tracks of GBA, FOBEX and ‘system of systems’, let’s hope it survives contact with the MoD’s budget process and as we see the end of Afghanistan, projects like this sustained.

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