Murphy's Law: Running Out of Juice


December 17, 2005: During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, one of the biggest logistic surprises was the extent of the battery shortage. The troops had more electronic gadgets with them, and used these devices heavily. There were never enough batteries. When the logistics experts examined that situation, they were surprised to discover that, to some extent, the shortage was avoidable. But only if the troops had a reliable way to determine which batteries had some charge left, and how much. What had happened was that many of the users had dumped half used batteries because they didn't want to go into combat with batteries they feared might die at any time. Makes sense, in life or death situations. It's better to pop a fresh battery into the radio, GPS or sniper scope night vision sight. So now the army wants to buy more batteries equipped with SOCI (state of charge indicators). These are expensive, increasing the cost of each battery by at least five dollars. But by equipping only the most widely used battery (the BA-5590 and BA-5390), the savings are expected to be far greater. Another strategy is to equip more vehicles with battery recharging equipment. The troops have already been doing that for some of the common (AA, AAA, etc) batteries they use for some equipment. While the troops, due to better marksmanship training and better sights, can use less ammunition, the battery consumption just keeps going up, and is becoming a major supply problem.


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