On Sept. 19 2005 Arotech announced a new type of 12V zinc-air battery compatible with the MBITR radios, operated by the US Special Forces, designated BA-8140/U. The non-rechargeable battery delivers 12V at 400 watt-hour. The company reported preliminary orders worth $478,000 for the new product.
The BA-8180/U Zinc Air primary (non-rechargeable) battery is a 12/24 Volt, 800 Watt-hour battery pack, approximately the size and weight of a notebook computer. The battery is based on the new generation of lightweight, 30 ampere-hours cells developed by Electric Fuel. Rated at 350 wh/kg, the battery typically provided 4 to 6 times the run time of conventional BA-5590 offering longer mission endurance, improved safety and redundancy and considerable logistics saving. BA-8180/U is typically used with portable equipment, in locations where reliable electrical power is not available, or where long endurance operation of equipment is required – such as with long range patrols, and special operations teams, where the battery pack is carried in a rucksack, adjacent to the radio pack. In satellite communications applications, PSC-5 SATCOM terminals operated continuously for four days, powered by a hybrid zinc-air/lead-acid pack. The battery is used as an external power source, where it replace standard power packs such as BA-5590/U, BA-5390/U and BA-3590/U by using compatible adapters that fits into the battery compartment and plugs into the external source. Similar adapters can replace BB-390A/U, BB-5990/U, BB-690/Y and BB-2590/U rechargeable batteries.
Another application of zinc-air power cells is charging of rechargeable batteries such as li-ion cells. The US Army is planning to field Forward Field Chargers, to support extended, dismounted operations. Advanced charging solutions are an integral part of the program, and the new Charger enables charging from a number of sources. Electric-Fuel is offering a version of the Forward Field Charger which uses the BA 8180 battery as a source of energy for field charging of military rechargeable batteries. Other sources supported by the system include solar panels, 24-volt vehicle batteries and 110/220 AC.
Zinc-air batteries are considerably safer in combat situations and more environmentally friendly than lithium batteries. The US Army Communications Electronic Command (CECOM) orders started in 2003 after extensive testing and positive experience with troops during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In training, Zinc-Air packs powered PRC-119 radio sets for an average period of 6 – 9 days. Arotech reported in November 2003 an order of $5.2 worth of BA-8180/U zinc-air primary batteries, in addition to an ongoing 2003 order worth $4.1 million. The US Army plans to buy 150,000 BA-8180/U batteries under a sole source program announced in November 2003. In March 2005 CECOM ordered more 8180 and 8140 type batteries under a three-year $24 million contract signed in 2005. Arotech is producing the zinc-air batteries at its US production line in Auburn, Alabama.