FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. – The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) and the U.S. Army Futures Command, Futures and Concepts Center, in partnership with the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, have combined efforts and resources to test new technologies to be deployed on today’s battlefield in order to prevail in tomorrow’s conflicts.
The Maneuver Support, Sustainment and Protection Integration Experiments-2020, or MSSPIX-20, is a demonstration devised to bring capability developers, science and technology resources and the warfighter together in one arena to test new technologies in real-world scenarios.
Throughout this years event, capability demonstrations introduced Soldiers to new technologies in a controlled environment and gave them hands-on testing prior to rolling out that technology onto the battlefield. Soldiers gained knowledge and experience in working with the new equipment, and the developers were able to see if the new platforms are durable, user friendly and rapidly deployloyable.
During the MSSPIX-20 exercise, the ERDC teams rolled out three new technologies: the Expedient Retrofit for Existing Buildings (EREB), the Ready Armor Protection for Instant Deployment (RAPID), and the Protection Planning, Visualization and Assessment Tool (PPVAT).
The EREB is a modular, lightweight retrofit designed to increase the level of protection provided by various types of existing buildings from small arms, indirect fire and blast threats. All components are less than 60 pounds and no anchoring, special tools or equipment is required for installation. Protection is provided by a multi-layered armor panel system combined with the existing building.
Sgt. James Lewis from the 515th SAPPER Company, 5th Engineer Battalion said, “The EREB modular protective system was easy to set up and configure. Today, we were fortunate enough to have some very talented and motivated horizontal engineers who have put up scaffolding and other similar type of structures, so for our group, the EREB system was not complicated and easy to figure out. The beauty of the EREB system is that you don’t have to be an engineer to understand how to assemble and break it down — anyone from any MOS, or military occupational specialty, can easily figure it out.”
“I could see the potential and use for this system on a forward operating base or larger facility,” he continued. “But it’s big and bulky, and you can’t carry this in your ruck, so it’s suitable for a hard-structured area and not for light ground operations.”
According to the EREB technical lead, Dr. Genevieve Pezzola, an ERDC civil engineer, after just two quick instructor-led demonstrations, the Soldiers were ready to start attaching the pieces of the EREB puzzle.
“We have a unique opportunity to closely watch and observe how the Soldiers assemble the EREB system. They creatively come up with better ways to quickly and safely attach all the moving parts and have successfully assembled the apparatus in less than 30 minutes,” she said. “We walk away from this exercise with some very valuable information on how to upgrade these systems to continue making improvements for each of our protective systems.”
RAPID is a rapidly deployable, protective barrier for critical asset protection and urban operations. It utilizes a hydraulic system and wheels to reduce the manpower and time required to deploy and is integrated into a Quadcon, or ISO certified steel container, for storage and transport. When expanded for use, RAPID provides ballistic protection, intrusion prevention and line-of-sight denial. It is also scalable, recoverable and can be tailored to meet specific threats. The ERDC technical lead for RAPIDS, Omar Esquilin-Mangual, an ERDC research civil engineer, said that this years MSSPIX-20 deployment will help validate the current system.
“We have made some significant changes to the RAPID system which were a direct result from the the Technical Cooperation Program’s Contested Urban Enviornment Strategic Challenge 2019 demonstration,” he said. “Today, we are again grateful to have the Soldier’s feedback to continue to take their suggestions and make future modifications to the system.”
Esquilin-Mangual added that some of the recommendations were so simple and minute but made perfect sense. “The Soldiers quickly identified that we need to put some sort of level on the RAPID container unit so when there may be a threat, and we are quickly deploying the unit, we know when the system is on level ground and therefore easier to extract from and retract into the container — it’s such a simple add-on but very, very smart.”
The PPVAT is a comprehensive, interactive, analytical, iterative decision‐support tool that supports development, modification and validation of protection schemes for deployed forces. PPVAT contains an extensive catalog of best practices and protection measures that allows users to select, analyze and evaluate protection solutions. The Soldiers spent their week learning how to utilize the computer generated security program to create a protection plan and build a barrier around their facilities, equipment and personnel.
“The PPVAT system has so many configurations and when you understand the capabilities of the system, you can utilize it to protect any size facility with all types of equipment,” said 2nd Lt. Thomas Egan, 5th Engineer Battalion, HHC-Operations. “The opportunity to train on the PPVAT allows me the capability to think about how I can successfully plan and provide protection to a facilities — everything from doing a blast analysis, planning to set up a forward operating base and providing materials to fortify structures — it’s pretty amazing.”
The ERDC, headquartered in Vicksburg, Mississippi, is a premier research and development organization solving the nation’s most challenging problems in civil and military engineering, geospatial sciences, water resources and environmental sciences. As one of the most diverse engineering and scientific research organizations in the world, the ERDC conducts research and development in support of the Soldier, military installations, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' civil works mission, as well as for other federal, state and municipal authorities.
Fort Leonard Wood is a premier Army Center of Excellence that trains more than 80,000 military and civilians each year. Home to the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, Fort Leonard Wood trains and educates service members and develops doctrine and capabilities for the Training and Doctrine Command’s U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear School, U.S. Army Engineer School and U.S. Army Military Police School. Many numerous additional responsibilities include supporting a colonel-commanded Marine Corps Detachment and an Air Force Squadron, both of which are the largest on any Army installation, as well as, supporting a large Navy Seabee Detachment and elements of the Coast Guard.