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Posted 8/3/2017

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By Gwyn G. Neill
U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Public Affairs

The Deep South’s heat and humidity in August did not deter scientists and engineers, stakeholders or vendors from all over the globe from attending the Water Egress Terrain Surfacing demonstration held at the U.S. Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Mississippi. 

A team of researchers led by Research Civil Engineers Dr. John Rushing and Capt. Daniel Harder from ERDC’s Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory created a ground vehicle terrain surfacing test facility for the WETS demo on the campus’ almost 700 acres. The facility was designed to test several iterations of matting developed for heavy military equipment to cross remote airfields, Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore operations, helipads, basecamps, roadways and bridges with unfavorable soil conditions and various angled slopes.

GSL’s test site was designed to reproduce all the variables which are important for evaluating matting performance. Soil types and their strengths in materials such as beach sand, silt, clay and marshy soil affect testing outcomes. The effects of slope, slippage and friction will also be tested under dry, wet and muddy surface conditions. 

Rushing and Harder pointed out that ERDC is no stranger to mat designs, construction and testing. ERDC’s history with matting dates back to the 1960s and even further with the Marston Mat which was commonly used during World War II.

Rushing said, “We want to test in the worst possible scenarios so that we have a truer picture of what each matting system will withstand.”

For GSL’s demonstration and testing, heavy military equipment was delivered to ERDC from Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The M1A1 Abrams tank weighing 140,000 pounds, a rough terrain container handler, also known as a wretch, weighing 118,000 pounds and a medium tactical vehicle replacement at 55,000 pounds will make thousands of passes over the various matting systems during the test period.

The driving patterns of these military vehicles will also be assessed in the testing. Sharp turns, multiple starts and stops, movements in all directions, channelized traffic and turning patterns are all factors.

Six different matting systems will be tested in ERDC’s controlled test environment. The government-owned and commercial off-the-shelf matting systems to be tested are:

  • ACE Mat - Government-owned fiberglass matting systems with modified anchorage system

  • FAUN Trackway - A rolling aluminum plank roadway surface deployed from a common bridget transporter or palletized loading system

  • DesChamps Fast Composite Roadway - A rolling aluminum plank roadway surface deployed from a CBT or PLS and is recoverable

  • DuraBase - Large, plastic panels which lock together with pins

  • WavTrac - A single, rolling panel of waffle-patterned polymer for vehicle traffic

  • AM-2 - Navy designed aluminum panels for airfields   

Harder said, “The purpose of matting is to allow vehicle, aircraft, personnel and materials to be moved over unsuitable conditions. The strength of matting and deployability are our main concerns.”

“We are always looking for new matting that is easier to set-up with less labor. We move multiple Brigade Combat Teams and transport thousands of pieces of equipment over matting in just a number of days,” said Capt. Tyler Cline, representing the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary).

“The bulk of the testing will occur over the next two weeks, but continued testing will occur over the next few months with results to follow,” said Rushing. 

GSL’s WETS demo and the development of the ground vehicle terrain surfacing test facility are examples of how ERDC’s engineers and scientists are continually working to protect our military and nation.

ERDC GSL USACE water egress WETS