GSL Is “Smashing” into Soldier Protection

Published Oct. 5, 2012
Post-crash view of the truck stopped by the improved Modular Protective System Perimeter Wall.

Post-crash view of the truck stopped by the improved Modular Protective System Perimeter Wall.

Team members check the remote-piloted truck before the evaluation of protective systems.

Team members check the remote-piloted truck before the evaluation of protective systems.

Public Affairs Office

VICKSBURG, Miss. -- Car or truck bombs are one of the serious threats our Soldiers face at combat outposts. Suicide attackers can use their vehicles to ram and possibly breach perimeter protective systems to detonate their deadly explosive cargo.

ERDC’s Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory (GSL) is evaluating force protection systems to counter this serious threat. The system includes perimeter walls and expedient barriers developed by the Deployable Force Protection (DFP) Science and Technology Program under the Passive Protection Project led by James Ray.  ERDC team members are also evaluating the performance of the improved Modular Protective System (MPS) Perimeter Wall to resist vehicle ramming. The performance evaluation is being conducted under the Perimeter Protection and Entry Control Work Unit led by Brad Steed.

One of the key efforts to this research project was the development of remote-piloted or tele-operational vehicles to test the newly designed ramming resistant walls to accurately mimic the vehicles used by suicide bombers.

Team members from GSL’s Mobility Systems Branch developed a new wireless driver capability by fabricating and installing a mechanical driver system, advanced computer programming for driver system functionality, and implementing on-board electronic and data acquisition equipment. The tele-operational vehicle has been a “smashing” success!

The ramming vehicle is piloted from a driver command station equipped just like a typical car, including a driver’s seat with steering wheel, brake and gas pedal. There is also a video monitor for viewing through the windshield to “see” the path of the ramming vehicle.

Mechanical systems on the ramming vehicle accelerate the engine and steer at the researcher’s commands. Driving commands are transmitted through multiple wireless channels from the driver command station. An additional wireless channel transmits video from a camera mounted in the ramming test vehicle.

The driver system uses small motors and gears to control the accelerator, brake and steering from the research driver commands sent wirelessly to the ramming vehicle – a tremendous enhancement from the joystick once used to steer such test vehicles. An ERDC-developed software program processes all of the commands to operate the system, plots and calculates the distance traveled, distance to point-of-no-return, and vehicle speed. The ramming vehicle is equipped with instrumentation to measure acceleration during impact. This innovative system was designed by Cliff Grey, Burman Gates, Chris Cummins and Humphrey Barlow, all of GSL.

Other equipment at the command station monitors the ramming vehicle’s course, speed, and distance-to-impact for conditions that might necessitate aborting a test. A “mission abort” message can be sent to the ramming vehicle that will cut power and apply the brake. Another safety measure features the continuous transmission of a “heartbeat” message to the ramming vehicle during a test. If the heartbeat message is stopped for any reason, the ramming vehicle’s power is cut and the brake is applied.

During a recent test with the MPS target wall hundreds of feet away, the ramming truck barreled toward the wall, where an ‘X’ marks the impact spot on the MPS wall section. The research driver steered the simulated truck bomb racing past each orange cone in rapid and accurate acceleration and seconds later the truck rammed the MPS wall, right on target.

The recent effort is the team’s third successful vehicle ramming evaluation of protective material in the past year. The first two experiments used two similar mid-size sedans for baseline comparison of standard and improved MPS perimeter wall performance. The improved MPS wall system can defeat multiple vehicle ramming threats to protect our Soldiers.

These realistic tests are improving ERDC and Army capabilities. Measurements from each ramming experiment are used to improve both the MPS wall and the remote-piloted vehicle.

MPS walls are revolutionizing force protection, especially at remote combat outposts where their portability, light weight, and high strength are quickly winning praise from Soldiers. ERDC technologies are saving Soldiers lives. Other ERDC innovations, such as the remote piloted vehicle system, are helping us improve technologies, research experiments, and ultimately improve our way of life. ERDC – Innovations for a Safer, Better World.