The PCASE Program

Published March 7, 2014
PCASE helped engineers ensure the safe transport of “Free Willy” to his home waters off Iceland.

PCASE helped engineers ensure the safe transport of “Free Willy” to his home waters off Iceland.

For Efficient Transportation System Design & Evaluation

Field structural engineers must spend valuable hours collecting information from many sources to make engineering decisions based on the most up-to-date engineering findings from around the world.

The Pavement-Transportation Computer Assisted Structural Engineering (PCASE) software program saves time by incorporating all transportation criteria into a user-friendly computer format for designing and evaluating transportation systems, including airfields, roads, and railroads. By leveraging recent information technology enhancements, PCASE allows technology transfer at far less cost and with wider distribution than was available in the past.

Free software for military and private sector engineering

A Tri-Service (Army/Navy/Air Force) effort, PCASE is useful to all military service branches and to private sector engineering firms.

The PCASE team at the ERDC Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory (GSL) developed the system to allow research to be modularized into a set of scalable and reusable software components. These components are then combined to create a software desktop system designed for a single computer.

All that is needed to get started is a Microsoft Windows-based PC with minimum requirements. See the PCASE User Manual for minimum and recommended enhanced system specifications.

Success Stories

Saving an Icon: Keiko, the killer whale who starred in the “Free Willy” movies, was suffering from health problems and needed to be moved back to his home near Iceland. A foundation was established to raise the money to send him home. Only a C-17 aircraft was capable of carrying the 10,000-pound whale with his 35,000 pounds of equipment and landing on the short runway. The US Air Force Air Mobility Command evaluated the runway pavement using the Dynamic Cone Penetrometer. Pavement data was input into PCASE to determine pavement strength and how many passes the aircraft could make before runway failure. It was determined that the C-17 could make five passes. In 1998, Keiko was transported back to his home waters, where he lived until his death in 2003.

Military Uses: PCASE is necessary for performing pavement evaluations for Army, Air Force, and Navy facilities and in the Theater of Operations. Determining airfield and roadway pavement life, required upgrades, and repair solutions is critical to determining if training operations and military missions can be conducted on the facilities. Within the past few years, numerous evaluations on critical, mission-essential pavements were conducted using PCASE in both Iraq and Afghanistan and the results were used to determine the pavement upgrades and repair requirements necessary to meet mission needs.  

Tool of Choice: Per the Department of Defense’s Unified Facilities Criteria 3-260-11FA and 3-260-02, PCASE is required to be used in design of all design-build airfields and pavements. The Army MILCON process also requires the use of PCASE for military tracked vehicles. PCASE is essential in the required review of all airfield designs by the Transportation System Mandatory Center of Expertise (TSMCX), per AR 95-2.


Pavement Design using empirical or layered elastic model for:

  • Airfields
  • Roadways
  • Rigid, Flexible, Overlay, Aggregate, or Mat surfaces
  • Subsurface Drainage
  • Seasonal Variations

Pavement Evaluation:

  • Evaluation Equipment Support Software
    • Dynamic Cone Penetrometer (DCP)
    • Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) using Falling Weight Deflectometer (FWD) data
  • Evaluation Analysis Software using empirical or layered elastic model
    • Backcalculate Modulus values based on testing data
    • Calculate allowable loads and passes based on mission traffic
    • Calculate Pavement Classification Numbers (PCN) based on mission traffic
    • Calculate overlays required to support mission traffic

Latest Enhancements

PCASE version 2.09 has multiple enhancements, including:

  • New beta criteria implemented
  • New Vehicle Editor allows user to "build" his own vehicle for use in his pavement design or evaluation
  • New Multiple Design Builder allows user to create a set of designs based on input criteria; compare multiple designs quickly
  • Expanded View Alternatives Function includes relative cost comparisons of designs

Cost, Distribution, & Documentation

Distribution of this free Windows-based software is available.

Training and Support

Training workshops are available in many areas.


Updated 25 August 2020

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