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The Importance Of Power Supply In The Defence Sector

The Importance Of Power Supply In The Defence Sector


The defence sector relies on electrically-powered systems, making electricity a fundamental element that supports defensive or offensive security functions. Mission command, intelligence, movement and manoeuvre, fires, sustainment, logistics and protection depend on electricity for an array of capabilities, from communicating with soldiers in the field to strategic missile defence assets protecting the United Kingdom. Moreover, the administrative side of service, as well as service health system support, sustainment operations, and even weapon systems are now dependent on electrical power to operate. The result of this growing dependence on electricity is an increase in the quantity and quality of power needed to support military operations. The crucial part that electrical power plays means commanders and planners must recognise and determine their electrical power needs and ensure that those needs are being met. In this industry whitepaper, we aim to show the importance of electrical power planning within the defence industry, and how legislation and other external factors have helped to shape this. Delivering within the defence industry ourselves – supplying industry compliant power supply equipment and services to defence companies and their suppliers – we’ve seen first-hand the importance of power supply to military operations.

Electrical Power Planning

With any engineering or construction project, there are time and resource constraints, laws and regulations, customer coordination issues, and evolving missions. The primary challenges associated with power assets are entry conditions, mission duration, access to resources, and competing requirements and visions. Power assets and capabilities must be carefully integrated into the overall general engineering concept and employed to support the objectives of the support plan. Due to the logistical burden, electrical power should be approached through a deliberate planning process.

Electric power planning involves several factors, such as equipment availability, mission variables, operational variables, and power requirements. What follows is a definition of each of these, and the power requirements they may each entail:

The Mission: The mission statement includes both task and purpose. The mission statement clearly indicates the action that must be taken by the facility. A thorough understanding of the mission and its anticipated duration helps to focus on the power planning process and desired outcomes. If an operation is of short duration, tactical generation may be the best approach to power systems. If the mission requires occupying or constructing a base camp, the selection of prime or utility power may provide benefits that outweigh resource investments. Similar plans are also appropriate for longer-term (such as 120 days or more) foreign humanitarian assistance or disaster relief missions.

The Other Side: Power is critical to the success of C2 centres, communication systems, and key weapon systems. Friendly control units can expect the other side to engage power generation and distribution systems with a wide variety of ground and aerial systems to detect and permit engagement by direct and indirect fires. Recognising vulnerabilities can allow planners to prepare defensive measures to mitigate threats to power system assets.

Terrain And Weather: Terrain and weather affect the operation of power systems sources and the routing of distribution cables. Power output of military generators decreases by 3.5 percent per 1,000 feet above 4,000 feet. Also, equipment operating temperatures increase at higher altitudes; thinner air is less efficient at carrying away waste heat. Likewise, rugged terrain and dense vegetation affect the placement of power systems and power distribution cables. Military generators need a relatively level surface.

Weather and climatic conditions also affect power generation equipment. Sometimes, it may be necessary to clear and level an area before installing generators. Tropical and coastal regions require additional equipment maintenance to prevent corrosion from humidity and salt spray. Desert regions require routine and preventative maintenance due to the heat and dust. Grounding problems are often encountered in dry climates due to high soil resistance.

The Support Available: The effectiveness and high reliability of power systems are dictated by the availability of trained operators, engineering staff, maintainers, and external support. Power systems sustainment support is provided by the level of power system employed.

The Time Available: It may not always be feasible to construct the best power system due to time constraints. In these instances, planners should develop a course of action over appropriate timelines to upgrade the power supply as resources become available.

Civil Considerations: Civil considerations influence the conduct of military operations. These factors include organisations, the power infrastructure, the local populace, and the activities of civilian leaders. Civil considerations also include structures, geographic areas, local utility capabilities, and events. All of these variables can affect the placement, operation, and security of power systems.

Together, the above factors can help determine the critical power equipment required, its placement and its usage for complete power management. Power assets and capabilities can be carefully integrated into the overall general engineering concept and employed to support the objectives of the team.

An Introduction To The Defence Sector

The defence sector in many countries works toward providing security for the people who inhabit them. Protecting people, territories, values and interests at home and overseas, through strong armed forces and in partnership with allies, they try to ensure national security, support national interests and safeguard prosperity.

In general, the main responsibilities of a defence sector include:

  • Defence, security and resilience of the country and its overseas territories.
  • Nuclear deterrence and the defence nuclear enterprise.
  • Contributing to improved understanding of the world through strategic intelligence and the global defence network.
  • Influencing through international defence engagement.
  • Overseas defence activity.
  • Promotion of prosperity and civil society.
  • Direct defence.
  • Strategic base and enabling functions.

Military Expenditure

Global military expenditure is estimated to have been $1917 billion in 2019, the highest level since 1988. The total was 3.6 % higher in real terms than in 2018 and 7.2 % higher than in 2010. World military spending rose in each of the five years from 2015, having decreased steadily from 2011 until 2014 following the global financial and economic crisis (See Figure 1).

The countries with the biggest military expenditure in 2019 were as follows:

1. United States of America – $717bn: The majority of the funding was allocated to procurement programmes such as M1 Abrams tanks, ballistic missile defence systems, F-35 fighters, AH-64E Apache and UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, joint light tactical vehicles (JLTV), and advanced extremely high-frequency (AEHF) systems.

2. China – $177bn: Territorial disputes with neighbouring countries and arms race with the US continued to propel the growth of the Chinese military budget in 2019. Major defence programmes, including Shenyang J-31 and Chengdu J-20 fighter aircraft, surface-to-air missiles, transport aircraft, multi-mission helicopters and naval vessels are expected to receive larger allocations in the future too.

3. India – $60.9bn: The Indian defence budget witnessed a year-on-year increase of 8% in 2019, driven by anti-terrorism measures and territorial tensions with Pakistan and China. The latest budget allocations will allow the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) to procure fighter aircraft, maritime patrol aircraft, attack helicopters, missiles, warships, submarines, main battle tanks (MBTs), and UAVs.

4. Germany – $53bn: The majority of the funding is allocated for the procurement of military transport aircraft, helicopters, multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), and UAVs.

5. Saudi Arabia – $51bn: The latest budget supports the nation to strengthen its defence capabilities through the acquisition of fighter aircraft, medium-lift utility helicopters, attack helicopters, fighter jets, armoured vehicles, joint standoff weapons, and missiles.

6. United Kingdom – $49bn: The procurement of submarines, warships, fighter jets, missiles, transport aircraft, and land-based equipment and systems accounted for a major share of the UK defence budget allocations.

7. France – $48bn: The French defence budget is primarily driven by the modernisation of armed forces, counter-terrorism efforts, and active participation in Nato missions and international peacekeeping operations.

8. Japan – $47bn: The Japanese Government set aside $47bn for defence in 2019, which allowed them to bolster their defence capabilities to counter potential threats from the missile systems of North Korea and strategic challenges from China. The budget allocations will also support the construction of a submarine and two destroyers, as well as the procurement of nine airborne early-warning aircraft, SM-3 Block IIA, and SM-3 Block IB missiles for the ballistic missile defence system.

9. Russia – $46.4bn: Russian defence allocations support multiple programmes including Borei-class ballistic missile submarines, Yasen-class attack submarines and SU-57 fighter jets. The Russian Ministry of Defence plans to upgrade its strategic nuclear assets, submarines and surface vessels, aircraft and helicopters, as well as its aerial capabilities through the induction of new fighters.

10. South Korea – $42bn: South Korea has a strong focus on enhancing its defence capabilities to counter potential threats from North Korea. More than 65% of the budget is dedicated to the maintenance of troops and military equipment. Future defence allocations will also support potential acquisition programmes, including airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) systems, anti-submarine helicopters, attack helicopters, Aegis combat systems, and SM-3 ballistic missile interceptors.

In the next section we delve into the importance of power supply within the defence sector.

The Importance Of Power Supply In The Defence Sector

Power supplies used by the military and defence sector may seem similar to those utilised in other industries such as manufacturing, construction and telecommunications, but their power demands require increased ruggedness, durability, and high reliability. As already mentioned above, power equipment must perform at the highest level, and seamlessly across a range of intense climates and harsh terrains. They also must withstand long usage cycles with minimal maintenance. This pertains to both military grade UPS systems, rugged UPS systems and defence generators, as well as military power supplies for sea defence.

Military-grade power supplies are also influenced by industry specifications, such as MIL-STD-704 (aircraft), MIL-STD-1275 (ground), MIL-STD-1399 (shipboard), MIL-STD-810 (environmental test methods), and MIL-STD-461 (EMI). These military standards cover areas such as standard voltage, maximum current, frequency, electrical noise, and abnormal conditions for both AC and DC systems.

Meticulous design and construction allow greater efficiency, smaller size, and lower weight. High standards also meet the challenges of multi-voltage electronics and the complexity of distributed systems. What follows are some of the ways in which military power supplies can provide superior performance:

  • Defence standards usually need noise reduction to meet their tactical needs.
  • Military power supplies also need protection from lightning strikes and power spikes.
  • Military power supplies support higher voltages and lower input signals than commercial power supplies used by military hospitals and air traffic control facilities – for example.
  • Defence vehicles and aircraft may have various operating modes, and power supplies must support specific and standard voltage ranges for each operational mode for power continuity, power control and effective operation.
  • Critical power equipment must be able to withstand temperatures below -40°C and above 80°C. Extreme circumstances such as thermal shock is also a consideration.
  • Military power supplies must be able to handle vibration and shock, such as those caused by tracked and wheeled military vehicles as well as the effects of artillery fire.
  • High risk operations require power equipment that can tolerate water and high humidity, with a measure of sealing integrity of these control units being immersion to the depth of 1 meter per MIL-STD-810 Method 512.5.

There are also military specifications for high-impact shock, as presented in MIL-S-901. These standards cover shock testing requirements for shipboard machinery, critical power equipment, power supply systems, and structures. The purpose of the MIL-S-901 standards are to ensure the ability of shipboard power installations to withstand shocks caused by nuclear or conventional weapons.

With so much to account for, ensuring your UPS power supply systems and generators meet industry standards is imperative to operation success. One key aspect of this is ruggedness. Ruggedness is the ability to ensure extreme and extensive use, and requires more rigorous design, performing at the highest level without failure or compromise. You’ll find that because of this, many power supply components are manufactured for the defence sector with ruggedness in mind. This may include:

  • Single phase power transformers: Military grade transformers are usually used in missile and airborne situations, as well as within tanks and submarines, working under harsh conditions. They’re encapsulated to protect them from vibration, fungus, excessive sunlight, dust, humidity, moisture, altitude, and salt.
  • 3 phase power transformers: Built to meet high temperature resistance for defence devices and telecommunications. Such as with single phase equipment, 3 phase power transformers are usually encapsulated to protect against extreme conditions.
  • AC-DC frequency converters: Frequency converters must withstand the highest loads and challenging humidity. They need to withstand high-impact shocks and strong condensation.
  • UPS inverters: DC-AC inverters offer powerful, dependable, and low-maintenance current inversion for use on ships, aircraft, and vehicles. Converting voltage from one level to another, they also ensure protection from overheating, over-voltage, and short circuiting.
  • EMI filters: Electromagnetic interference filters (EMI filters) protect electrical circuits from disturbances that cause degradation of information and data loss.
  • PFC circuits: Because ships and planes need low total harmonic distortion (THD) power supplies, PFC (power factor correction) circuits are used to reduce the chances of interference between other systems.
  • Inductors: Inductors store energy and help to maintain a steady voltage regardless of varying current. They’re encapsulated to ensure their functionality in harsh environments.

Along with rugged UPS and rugged generators, this ruggedness provides protection and versatility that is necessary for critical applications. In the next section we take a closer look at some of the power specifications and legislation that guides the industry.

Defence Power Specifications & Legislation

The world’s defence industry has to comply with various Acts of Parliament (in the UK) and global standards. This legislation covers the following topics:

  • Internal cleaning of fuel tanks.
  • Electrical installations.
  • Mechanical ventilation.
  • Pumps for bulk fuel installations.
  • Building energy management systems.

Global standards that must be adhered to include MIL-STD-704, MIL-STD 461F, DEF STAN 59-41 and DEF STAN 59-411.

For example:

  • MIL-STD-704: A military standard that sets acceptable characteristics for aircraft electric power provided to the input terminals of equipment used in aircraft and military applications. It provides requirements for operation, compatibility, power utilisation and testing for all single-phase or three-phase wire-connected, grounded neutral systems. Among the considerations when sourcing a MIL-STD-704 power supply are input transient handling, maximum distortion allowed, acceptable limits for standard voltage and under voltage conditions.
  • MIL-STD-1275: Covers the characteristics of 28-VDC electrical systems in military vehicles and provides detailed requirements for military ground electrical systems, including electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), starting mode, normal operating mode, generator-only mode and their related spikes, surges and operating limits.
  • MIL-STD-1399-300B: Establishes electrical interface characteristics for shipboard equipment utilising AC electric power to ensure compatibility between the user equipment and the electric power system.

Finding equipment that meets these unique requirements is not always an easy feat. Therefore, in the next section, we present UPS systems and generators that can meet military needs.

UPS Systems & Generators That Meet These Specifications

Two greatest assets to military applications are uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) and generators. Whereas military UPS systems provide emergency power to a load when the input power source or mains power fails, a generator converts mechanical or chemical energy into electrical energy to provide electricity when power from the power grid is unavailable. Once an electrical current has been established, it is directed through copper wires to power external machines, devices, or entire electrical systems.

Our generators – for example – offer total power solutions that can meet military legislation and specification. Providing emergency power for a wide range of military facets – the technical requirements of international bodies; field hospital generators; military camp computer systems; command and communications vehicles – selective generators can also take dual-frequency into account, operating at both 50Hz and 60Hz if required.

Space may prove an issue in the field, but our generators are also compact and portable in design, for ease of transportation in military trucks, as well as in containers. For all military applications, an optional mobile kit is available, which ensures greater transportability as well as a rapid response for when the generator set has to be towed by a vehicle, streamlining any mission and reducing logistics costs. This kit extends service intervals to 1,000 hours, reducing operating costs for applications in remote locations. Not only this, but these gensets also promise high levels of soundproofing – especially useful near field hospitals and military camps. Together with strong canopies, these military generators can endure extreme weather, such as severe storms, snow and high temperatures, while still offering the best in power generation and power supply.

Not only can we install, supply, maintain and manage dependable generators, but we also offer a superb range of UPS systems in our rugged UPS product line, which includes those that feature in our Dale E600 series or the Dale E700 series. The Dale E600 UPS power supply range offers adaptability and reliable power control with configurable modular redundancy for the best in dependability. The level of redundancy is fully-adjustable to meet the criticality of the protected load and hot swappable modules allow servicing and repairs to be made whilst the UPS supports the load – for full power and control within the military field. The Dale E700 series provides internal sealed, maintenance free VRLA batteries for extended autonomy in the event of a mains failure (up to 40kVA), and if needed, external batteries can also be installed for extended autonomy. We have a vast range in our UPS product line, and are always happy to advise and guide based on your power requirements.


The defence industry has much to contend with – between excessive power requirements and ardent regulation. Electrical power planning is a key first step when it comes to understanding the importance of reliable power supply in the defence sector, helping those define the mission, terrain, weather conditions and then select a power system that can expand beyond them. But more than this, equipment needs to be rugged, able to withstand the highest loads and uncertain environments without fear of degradation or shutdown. That’s why specialist systems, such as those produced by Dale Power Solutions, are required. They can mitigate risks, work unhindered for extensive periods of time, and ensure critical missions always have the clean power they need to be an operational success.

If you are looking for help with UPS systems and generators for your own military applications, we invite you to visit our website today for more information on our total power solutions.