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Military Jets Using Lithium-Ion Batteries in Spite of Boeing 787 Issues

Lockheed F-35B Experimental Aircraft
Lockheed F-35B Experimental Aircraft

Military jets will continue to use lithium ion batteries, according to the Pentagon. Their batteries have other manufacturers than Boeing’s, says official.

If there is anything that separates military equipment from civilian equipment, aside from it being more advanced, is redundancy. Where your typical automobile has only one engine control unit, a military vehicle might have one or two backup systems.

Military jets, such as the Lockheed F-35B, are on another level altogether, because if a controller fails mid-flight, due to corrosion or gunfire for example, the plane will crash. At least a vehicle will just come to a stop, probably making it an easy target.

Civilian aircraft have backup systems too. Hydraulic control surfaces may have electrical backups, which keeps the pilots in control. The engines in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, like most aircraft, provide generator and hydraulic power. If the engines fail, lithium-ion [Li-ion] battery packs provide the backup power for controls and navigation. Unfortunately, a fire in Boston has grounded the entire fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners. The National Transportation Board is still conducting its investigation after the January 16th fire and subsequent grounding of the fleet.

The Lockheed F-35B uses a similar lithium-ion backup battery, and the Pentagon has given permission to continue testing of the lithium-ion backup system. The F-35 is equipped with redundant sensor systems to monitor battery performance and condition, as well as safety lockouts and suppression systems in case of failure. Battery manufacturer Saft Groupe SA has affirmed the safety of their batteries and for now, Lockheed will stick with the lithium-ion batteries. Boeing, on the other hand, has suggested going back to heavier, but proven nickel-metal hydride [NiMH] batteries.

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