VICKSBURG, Miss. (June 19, 2014) -- A recent user demonstration at Fort Polk, Louisiana, proved successful for researchers from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center and the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, who had high hopes for their latest joint effort -- the Scalable/Selectable Breacher.

The Scalable/Selectable Breacher, or SSB, allows the dismounted Soldier mission flexibility by providing a single system that can successfully breach a wide range of urban wall types, has the potential to enhance operational maneuverability and save lives.

"The SSB is a lightweight, compact and portable package designed to be carried by Soldiers and employed as necessary to breach many types of walls," said Jeff Averett, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, or ERDC, research mechanical engineer and SSB Design Team member. "It uses standard explosive materials that are readily available to the warfighter, and the primary objective is to create a man-sized hole in a wide range of Military Operations in Urban Terrain wall targets using a man-portable system that minimizes time on target. Previous wall breaching systems utilized a single warhead design for multiple walls, which resulted in overmatch in some cases and failure to breach in others."

Sometimes Soldiers wouldn't get the size opening they needed, and other times excessive explosive would do more damage than they wanted to do. Not getting a large enough opening could leave the breaching Soldiers exposed to enemy fire. Too big of an explosion could result in innocent people being hurt, or the destruction of evidence inside the objective room.

The SSB solves this problem by allowing flexibility in choosing from a myriad of different breaching systems based on need and wall type, ensuring successful passage through the wall and minimizing collateral damage. With the ability to be assembled in minutes and a set-up process that takes mere seconds, the technology also increases Soldier safety by significantly minimizing the time required at the wall itself. The Fort Polk demonstration, part of a science and technology program supported by the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center Office of the Director of Technology, served as an introduction for the current SSB prototype design.

"ERDC personnel presented many configurations of the SSB for different wall types and explosive materials," said Averett. "The goal was to demonstrate to Army Soldiers, as well as the project managers and civilians that support them, the simplicity and effectiveness of the system, and we succeeded. Everyone was able to witness firsthand the ease of assembly and installation, and see the results on typical wall designs that might be encountered by the warfighter -- they even had the opportunity to walk through the wall openings."

Assembly, wall application and breaching capabilities were all featured during the event, which included representatives from the U.S. Army Engineer School; the Project Manager for Close Combat Systems; the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence; the Joint Readiness Training Center; the Urban Masters Breacher Course; and Special Operations Command.

The SSB was able to defeat concrete masonry units, triple layer brick and double reinforced concrete walls with a single shot. Tests are also being done on adobe and double-thick adobe walls, which have so far been successful, though they were not included in this demo.

Amid positive feedback, interest has already been shown in acquiring the SSB for use in upcoming training efforts. The operational test data will serve as a valuable step forward in getting the technology, part of ERDC's mission to develop innovative solutions for a safer, better world, into the hands of deployed troops.

"Fielding the SSB would mean that Army Soldiers would have improved mobility and safer techniques for breaching walls," said Averett. "But ultimately, and most importantly, it's about the decrease in vulnerability and risk that comes with reduced time outside the wall."