By Ms. Andricka Thomas (CECOM)July 22, 2008
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. Aca,!" The days of repairing vehicles while standing on a lug nut or tire of 5-ton vehicles are coming to an end, as the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command seeks solutions to the needs of warfighter.
Presently, Army vehicles do not have a stable area for mechanics to stand, while accessing the vehicleAca,!a,,cs engine compartment for preventive maintenance checks and services. Consequently, this poses a potentially dangerous situation for the warfighter.
Aca,!A"From working in the motor pools, SoldiersAca,!a,,c boots may get slippery from mud, grease or oil,Aca,!A? said Sgt. 1st Class Pico Silvio, Field Assistance in Science and Technology Team non-commissioned officer. Aca,!A"Soldiers may slip on lug nuts, tires or wherever they need to step and climb in order to gain access to the engine compartment to perform their duties.Aca,!A?
With situations like this in mind, the RDECOMAca,!a,,cs FAST-Team answers the needs of the Warfighter by delivering rapid engineering solutions.
Aca,!A"RDECOM listens to the warfighters in the field,Aca,!A? said Command Sgt. Maj. Hector Marin, RDECOM. Aca,!A"That is the best way to come up with engineering solutions, ask the end user, our Soldiers.Aca,!A?
The mechanicAca,!a,,cs platform is one of those solutions. The platform has one-step and is removable so it can be mounted on the tire of vehicles such as the MRAP vehicle.
Aca,!A"The success in RDECOM-FAST is that they have the ability to be on the ground to connect with the Warfighter,Aca,!A? said Marin. Aca,!A"They [the FAST Team] close the gaps between the developers and Soldiers to best accomplish the mission.Aca,!A? The FAST team is compiled of a small team of engineers and military personnel in Iraq, who gather data from Soldiers about equipment from which they determine whether there are equipment improvement needs.
Aca,!A"With this platform, mechanics and operators donAca,!a,,ct have to figure out a way to climb on each type of vehicle,Aca,!A? said Silvio. Aca,!A"This standardizes the method in a safe and secure manor, eliminating the need to climb and jump off tires.Aca,!A? The platform does not touch the floor, which helps prevent accidents due to oil spillage and other liquids that could cause the mechanic to slip and fall.
The mechanicAca,!a,,cs platform is made of inexpensive off-the-shelf materials and the final design is expected to be reasonably priced, according to Steven Schehr, associate director for the Quick Reaction Cell at the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, an RDECOM subordinate element located in Warren, Mich.
The initial concept for the technology originated from Camp LibertyAca,!a,,cs MRAP yard in Baghdad. The Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center at Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois took the concept and developed and manufactured the lightweight, collapsible current prototype.
Aca,!A"We asked a local unit to fabricate six more models for us to assess and distribute to units throughout the base so we could get feedback from Soldiers to see if there was need for such a device,Aca,!A? said Silvio.
After receiving more information detailing requirements for the vehicle mechanic platform, RDECOMAca,!a,,cs FAST Team got involved. FAST reached out to RDECOM subordinate elements to find a source for design and engineering resources for eventual mass production to make the platforms available to all Soldier and civilian mechanics working on large vehicles.
The TARDEC Quick Reaction Cell answered the call. It upgraded the design from the original theatre version making it even more lightweight, portable and inexpensive to produce, while keeping the safety of the user in mind, according to Schehr. As an added safety feature, the engineers decided to extend the side hand rails, and make a height adjustable tool tray.
With minor design modifications, the platform could be used on other military vehicles by adjusting its size to fit different tires. Although there are some commercial products similar to the mechanic platform, none are as big, light and collapsible as it is made to suit Soldier needs specifically, according to Silvio. The platform is light enough for one person to handle, setup and remove. The device can be neatly tucked away on the vehicle using Velcro and pins.
Aca,!A"This prototype was made with the Soldier in mind,Aca,!A? said Silvio. Aca,!A"Soldiers often come up with unique and simple solutions to everyday issues making the job more streamlined.Aca,!A?
The first prototype is presently out for assessment with a local Baghdad unit that will provide the FAST team with feedback after using the platform for a designated period of time. That information will be forwarded to TARDEC and Program Manager Sets, Kits, Outfits and Tools, or PM-SKOT, for evaluation.
Aca,!A"Once all feedback is collected, the mechanic platform design will be updated and fabricated for safety testing and a full theatre operational evaluation,Aca,!A? said Schehr.
The safety testing will be conducted at the Army Test and Evaluation Command before the final design is approved and the technology is sent to theatre. Following the full theatre operational evaluation, PM-SKOT, will work with Army Forward Support Brigades and FAST teams in theatre to identify units that need the platform.
Aca,!A"It is anticipated that all units requiring the platforms would be able to acquire one or be provided a platform by the PM,Aca,!A? said Schehr. Aca,!A"Fielding timelines would be dependent on the receipt of funding, safety confirmation and the time it takes to award a production contract.Aca,!A?