Corps testing solar-powered Marines concept
Solar like these may soon help Marines in battle.
November 4th, 2013
06:20 PM ET

Corps testing solar-powered Marines concept

By Larry Shaughnessy

For years, top Marine commanders have been worried about the amount of weight each of their troops carries.

There's the body armor, weapons and ammunition. Those are must-haves. But they also carry lots of water to keep from becoming dehydrated and batteries for their radios, GPS gear and night-vision goggles.

Now, the Marine Corps is looking at how to reduce the water and battery weight.

At a base in California this month, Marine and Navy researchers are testing a concept called Marine Austere Patrolling System, with a built-in solar panel and a water filtration system.

This isn't about the Marine Corps suddenly joining the "green" movement. It's about weight and safety.

The idea of the solar panel is that Marines would charge their gear with sunlight. The solar panel weighs only 13 pounds and can be used repeatedly. Without MAPS, a Marine on a four-day mission may need 100 pounds of batteries.

"MAPS doesn't replace the need for battery power storage," said Peter Vietti, a spokesman for the Office of Naval Research; it allows the Marine to carry fewer batteries on each mission.

The solar panel charges and recharges a central battery whenever the sun is out. Then, when the Marine needs power, even at night, the battery provides it.

The water-filtration part of MAPS also addresses the weight issue. Each gallon of water a Marine carries weighs more than 8 pounds. And they may need two or more gallons for that four-day tour.

The Marine can take water from a local river, maybe a village well, and run it through the filter to make it safe to drink.

But weight isn't the only problem that MAPS addresses.

If a Marine unit does need to be resupplied with water and/or batteries, the supplies have to be carried in by helicopter or truck.

And those supply units are vulnerable to attack. So, fewer resupply missions means fewer Marines doing the resupplying or putting themselves at risk.

Capt. Frank Furman told National Defense magazine that the water component of MAPS could be used by Marines around the world in five years.

soundoff (21 Responses)
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  8. Johanna

    One of the most frequent arguments I hear for keeping U.S. women away from combat positions is that most are too small to carry the heavy packs. If this is successful and evolves further, it may have farther reaching social interest, as it would assist the Pentagon with its vow to expand women's role in the military.

    November 15, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Reply
  9. Californian

    I think this is super interesting!

    November 8, 2013 at 9:29 pm | Reply
  10. Lee Nhan

    I will find a solution for you , such as this, if encountered rain 2-3 days then lost contact

    November 8, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Reply
  11. freedom

    SO THE SHINING SURFACE OF THOSE SOLAR PANELS ARE OK IN A WAR WHERE NOT BEEN SPOTTED IS ESSENTIAL? they should include some speakers to listen loud rock since there is extra power:)

    November 6, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Reply
  12. Semper Why?

    Leave it to the Marine Corps to come up with an acronym that is a separate, mission critical tool and a word that is used daily in combat operations.

    "Hey, don't forget to bring the maps..."
    "Oh, THOSE maps..."

    November 6, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Reply
  13. Calliefournia

    This is very intelligent! 🙂

    November 6, 2013 at 8:10 am | Reply

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    November 5, 2013 at 6:35 pm | Reply
  15. andy

    Marines, they wouldnt by any chance traveling through rough/rigid terrain where they may end up falling would they? Nah... oh but if they did and broke the panel? Hope you have 100 pounds of back up batteries just in case!

    November 5, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Reply
  16. Just Me

    "The solar panel weighs only 13 pounds and can be used repeatedly."
    Could that be The solar panel weighs only 1.3 pounds and can be used repeatedly.

    November 4, 2013 at 8:36 pm | Reply
    • Big Cheese

      @ 13 pounds those are some pretty heavy duty photovoltaics! Maybe they could filter urine and save the hassle of looking for a water supply?

      November 4, 2013 at 11:38 pm | Reply
    • GetReal

      1.3 pounds sounds right for the pictured PV panel. But, it is still storing power into a battery. There may also be inverters and/or power converters. All of that adds up. So, I'm guessing that the whole power unit is ~ 13 pounds.

      Big Cheese – Don't our troops have enough challenges without forcing them to resort to drinking their purified their urine? Yeah, I know about solar distillers made from plastic bottles and purification tablets. But, try selling that to potential recruits. "Just sign here to drink your own urine, instead of water."

      November 5, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Reply

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