VICKSBURG, Miss. - With decades of inventions protecting Soldiers and civilians from hostile forces, the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s (ERDC) Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory (GSL) continues developing life-saving innovations as one of the seven world-class laboratories of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The latest invention, Ready Armor Protection for Instant Deployment, or RAPID, earned a U.S. patent in Sept. 2020. Led by research civil engineer Omar Esquilin-Mangual, the research team includes GSL’s Survivability Engineering Branch members Dr. Catherine Stephens, branch chief Omar G. Flores, Erik Chappell and Carey Price, along with Andrew Edwards of Edwards Design and Fabrication. The team will be recognized next year with a patent plaque presentation from ERDC’s Office of Research and Technology Transfer which processes patent applications for the center.
Developed in 2018, RAPID is an easy-to assemble, expandable barrier offering faster protection for the Army, Department of Defense and law enforcement agencies. The invention provides protection from small arms’ fire, hostile vehicles and blast and fragmentation effects.
Created in Huntsville, Alabama, at Edwards Design & Fabrication, Inc., RAPID has been used at the Technical Cooperation Program Contested Urban Environment (TTCP CUE 2019) challenge and for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), both in New York City.
“Both the Soldiers and New York City Police Department were highly complementary of RAPID and expressed immediate needs for the system,” Esquilin-Mangual said.
ERDC researchers made improvements to RAPID based on Soldier and NYPD assessments, as well as from initial experimental results, before demonstrating the technology for the U.S. Army Engineer School and U.S. Military Police School at the Maneuver Support, Sustainment and Protection Integration Experiments 2020, or MSSPIX20, in August 2020. Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security has purchased RAPID for assessments and the NYPD has requested Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office support for police-specific modifications of RAPID
RAPID is collapsible and scalable, and does not depend on heavy equipment, special tools or an electrical power source to be deployed or recovered. It is deployable and recoverable in minutes and can be tailored to provide blast and ballistic protection, to delay intrusion and to serve as Line-of-Sight Denial in urban settings. RAPID provides modular and relocation protection at least seven times faster than the most comparable system.
“RAPID set-up takes approximately one man-hour to assemble as compared to seven man-hours for a similar modular protective system (MPS) configuration or more than 70 man-hours for a sandbag wall,” Esquilin-Mangual said.
Delivered in Quadcon containers, RAPID may be transported on a palletized loading system truck providing more than 100 linear feet of protective barrier per truck.
“We designed RAPID with expediency and logistics in mind. To this end, RAPID’s shipping container is hardened and is part of the protective system thereby eliminating the need to store it elsewhere” explained Esquilin-Mangual.
The idea was born in a meeting where the team was discussing the complex urban challenges for the warfighter under potential urban operations. “We knew that our current protective technologies provide the required level of protection, but they needed faster deployment times,” Esquilin-Mangual said.
“The idea was the next logical step after the MPS to provide faster protection to the Warfighter with increased flexibility,” said Stephens.
Current urban operations require coordination of construction equipment, materials and personnel, which is often intractable since these resources are limited. “In some cases, the current technologies are not used simply because they do not fit the military operational period, leaving the Soldiers vulnerable to threats,” Esquilin-Mangual said, referring to blast and fragmentation effects among others.
Testing Results and Plans
In late June 2020, five full-scale blast experiments were completed to evaluate RAPID. The first three experiments evaluated the system’s ability to absorb the blast without being breached or overturned. The last two experiments evaluated the system’s performance against rocket, artillery and mortar threats. The system performed as expected and was found to be suitable for providing protection within minutes in urban operations.
A vehicle-ramming test is planned for January of 2021 with expectations of having RAPID fully developed by the end of fiscal year 2021.
“RAPID can then be used to increase the warfighter’s survivability and protect key assets in the urban environment against conventional and improvised threats. With this rapidly deployable system, they will be equipped with the most effective tools to guarantee mission success,” Esquilin-Mangual concluded.