Environmental pressure is reshaping the defense industry

As world leaders gather in Egypt for the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) to discuss current and future environmental policies, the progressive electrification of the aerospace and defense industries highlights the opportunities and challenges facing the armed forces forces around the world trying to reduce energy emissions. and waste.

GlobalData predicts that electric vehicles will account for 31.1% of total light vehicle production by 2035, up from 27.9% in 2020. written evidence The Ministry of Defense (MoD) told the UK Parliamentary Committee on Defense and Climate Change that half of the current government’s greenhouse gas emissions come from defense industries, with aviation accounting for two-thirds of those emissions.

Steve Murray, vice president of strategy and marketing at Thales, sees combating climate change as inextricably linked to protection. “In order to be able to decarbonize, we first need a foundation of national stability and security.

“Climate change is increasing the likelihood of fighting over access to environmental resources such as water and crops, but as extreme weather events become more common, protection will also play a greater role in humanitarian aid.”

Opportunities for change

Murray believes products and services in the defense industry can also play a role by incorporating eco-design principles into Thales products and finding eco-friendly applications for existing products, such as testing military-grade surveillance cameras on unmanned surface ships with autonomous mine countermeasures. program so they can inspect wind turbine blades as they spin.

“For organizations working in the UK with the Ministry of Defense and with Her Majesty’s Government, you are working within a framework that is moving towards net zero in less than 30 years. The recently published Defense Capability Framework has for the first time given the defense industry a very clear indication of future plans to acquire capabilities from the Ministry of Defence.

“There is an opportunity to go further and link the capabilities needed for their climate change and sustainability strategies.”

Among the drivers of electrification in the defense market, modernization and energy security concerns have been key. “These concerns have increased pressure on defense companies to develop new solutions with greener credentials without compromising mission-critical capabilities,” says Tristan Sauer, defense analyst at GlobalData.

Sauer points to the military armor market as a prime example, where countries are investing in hybrid-electric propulsion systems to improve energy efficiency and reduce logistics.

Electric platforms in production

Hybrid-electric propulsion vehicles have been the focus of programs in the US and UK, with the US Army developing platforms such as the new M1A2 Abrams X main battle tank and the JLTV light armored vehicle. The British Army has companies including Supacat, General Dynamics and MAGTEC collaborating on hybrid-electric versions of the Jackal HMT and Foxhound armored vehicles.

Boeing, in written evidence to the UK Parliament’s Defense and Climate Change Committee, wrote in September this year that they had invested £370 million in the Wisk joint venture, which is focused on electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) platforms.

“Assuming clean hydrogen and a low-carbon power grid are available, both technologies offer environmental benefits and potential operational benefits in terms of reducing signatures,” Boeing wrote. However, the company clearly outlined the time frame constraints for implementation: “The reality is that electricity and hydrogen will not be suitable for all types of platforms in the near to medium term (the next 30 years).”

“There are clear areas where we can have quick wins and build momentum,” says Murray, pointing to Thale’s use of advanced flight simulators to reduce the need for live flights by 90%. Quantum computing, “economical artificial intelligence” and edge processing are among the emerging technologies it identifies that will reduce the environmental impact of computing in defence, reduce power use and reduce inefficiencies. Thales is developing carbon action plans that will reduce its indirect carbon footprint by 35% by 2030.

“It remains clear that global industry has seized the initiative as the defense market experiences this shift towards a more sustainable future.”

Sauer recognizes the significant technological advances that underlie the environmental policies of the defense industry. “Global concern about the impacts of climate change is driving innovation across the defense industry, as the military continues to electrify fleets and many major aerospace and defense companies invest heavily in new technologies.”

Naval equipment designers Saildrone have developed unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) powered by renewable energy from the sun and waves. Saildrone’s wing technology allows the USV to complete missions of up to 12 months without the need to refuel or return to the ground for maintenance, at an average speed of 2-6 knots, allowing it to reach most ocean locations within 30 days.

“While the integration of such capabilities into the military apparatus remains a challenge for political institutions themselves,” says Sauer, “it remains clear that global industry has seized the initiative as the defense market experiences this shift toward a more sustainable future.”

“When you can work with your customers,” says Murray, “to agree clear roadmaps that meet both domestic needs and export opportunities, you create a virtuous circle that allows businesses to invest with greater confidence, making them more resilient and capable.” maintain and expand your skill base. Which ultimately makes the UK safer and gives it a basis for decarbonisation.” Environmental pressure is reshaping the defense industry

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