• Modular Protective System Proves Effective for Remote Bases

    Sara Leach

    A series of recent demonstrations conducted by the Geotechnical and Structure Laboratory in the Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers validated the protective performance of an overhead cover structure, built with no equipment, using ERDC’s Modular Protective System (MPS).

    The MPS-OHC with segmented beams undergoes bare-charge testing at ERDC’s Big Black Test Site in Vicksburg in July. The test involved a total of five shots placed at different locations on the upper roof layer. The structure and the newly designed beam connection performed well on all tests. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.)

    The MPS is a rapidly deployable, recoverable system that consists of a lightweight space frame and composite armor panels validated for protection against a wide range of threat munitions.

    “The MPS was originally designed for use as a protective wall system but was recently adapted to also provide overhead protection from indirect fire threats,” said Nick Boone, Research Mechanical Engineer and Work Package Manager for the Defeat of Emerging Adaptive Threats Army Technology Objective.

    A demonstration in March at Fort Polk, LA, simulated direct hits from mortars and rockets, and served as the culminating validation event for an effort that was accelerated to meet the needs of troops in remote, austere bases like those in Afghanistan where construction assets and equipment are not available for building standard overhead cover (OHC).

    “We started designing the overhead cover option for MPS about a year ago,” said Omar Flores, Research Structural Engineer and Work Unit Manager for MPS Spiral Development. “We placed the first prototype structure in our mobility bay to protect a vehicle asset last November with the idea that anything can be substituted for the vehicle, such as a tactical operations center, living trailer, equipment, etc.”

    As part of this project, the team conducted a bare-charge explosive experiment to evaluate the dynamic response of the structure. At the Fort Polk demonstration, the team detonated a fragmenting warhead to see if the occupied space beneath was survivable.

    “We are very pleased with the results,” Flores said. “We designed the MPS-OHC for the expected loads, but until you blow it up, you are not 100 percent convinced it will work. Other than the damaged zone on the upper roof, the structure is completely reusable, and the covered area is completely protected.”

    Boone said there have been numerous requests from theater recently for a capability like this. “The acquisition folks are interested in helping field this system quickly, and we’re trying to do our part to make that happen so that our Soldiers will have an increased level of protection in theater,” he said.

    After the demonstration at Fort Polk, the team demonstrated the system again by participating in the Force Protection Equipment Demonstration VIII in Stafford, VA, in May. The 12-foot-tall, 900-square-foot structure was assembled by personnel from ERDC’s Survivability Branch in nine hours, using approximately 90 man-hours, with no heavy equipment support. During the event, the team briefed COL Brett Barraclough, Joint Project Manager Guardian within Joint Program Executive Office Chemical and Biological Defense, and others from the U.S Navy, the U.S. Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence at Fort Leonard Wood, MO., and U.S. Africa Command on the system.

    The acquisition folks are interested in helping field this system quickly, and we’re trying to do our part to make that happen so that our Soldiers will have an increased level of protection in theater.

    Researchers for the system noted that the original MPS-OHC design was based on 21-foot- and 31-foot-long beams supporting the layers of roof panels. These beams are odd-sized elements that must be transported using ad hoc methods, especially in airlift scenarios. To facilitate transportation, a segmented beam was designed and tested that fits inside typical shipping containers. With this redesign, the entire structure is now packaged in a series of tricon and quadcon containers. The container weights are configured to be compatible with C-130 air transport, the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT) Palletized Load System for tactical road transport, and finally, sling-load helicopter transport.

    “The goal is to use C-130 and HEMTT transport to move the containers as far forward as possible with only the last logistics leg using the helicopter sling-load,” Boone said. “These containers could be flown directly into the remote combat outpost and unpacked by hand when construction begins.”

    The MPS-OHC with segmented joists was evaluated at ERDC’s Big Black Test Site in Vicksburg, MS, in July. The objective of the test series was to evaluate the performance of the segmented joists against blast effects of the design threat. The test involved a total of five shots placed at different locations on the upper roof layer. The structure and the newly designed beam connection performed well on all tests.

    The team traveled to Camp Roberts, CA, in August, where the system was assembled in a simulated forward operating base as a part of Unique Mission Cell-Adaptive Red Team/Technical Support and Operational Analysis Activity. This time, the system was assembled in four hours, using approximately 52 man-hours, with no heavy equipment support over a trailer simulating a tactical operations center.

    Finally, on Sept. 20, the team returned to Fort Polk to conduct the Deployable Force Protection Science and Technology Program Live Fire Testing and Demonstration Event.

    For more information on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, visit http://www.usace.army.mil/Pages/default.aspx, or for more information on ERDC, visit http://www.erdc.usace.army.mil/.


    • SARA LEACH is a Public Affairs Specialist for ERDC in Vicksburg. She holds a B.A.  in journalism and public relations from the University of Mississippi.

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