VICKSBURG, MISS. - The Lightweight Modular Causeway System (LMCS), a floating bridge that incorporates floatation bladders with an overlain structural deck, has found a new use. Developed by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), the technology is designed to be transported by ship, air or land, can be assembled with as little as seven people and can support the Army's heaviest battle tank. Traditionally used as a path that extends from ship to shore or as a wet gap crossing, recent exercises in Malaysia focused on turning the LMCS into a towable, floating platform.
"The idea to try this came from planners at Marine Corps Forces, Pacific," said ERDC Research Civil Engineer Dr. Joseph Padula. "They were aware of the LMCS and wanted to try using it to move Humvees and light cargo from T-AKE ships to shore. In the past, the Marines had to rent a barge at the host nation to move cargo to shore, and they wanted a system that could be carried aboard and be deployed and recovered from the ship. Compactness and lightweight were desirable attributes in order to minimize storage space requirements and enable deployment and recovery with the shipboard cranes."
The LMCS was developed through a collaborative effort between researchers in ERDC's Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory (CHL) and ERDC's Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory (GSL), and it was immediately clear the technology had strong potential in both civil works and military mission areas. Padula, GSL, has been working on the multi-lab project since 2005 in an attempt to promote military-based applications for the technology. CHL Associate Technical Director Dr. Jimmy Fowler, the LMCS project manager, has been also been heavily involved in the planning and coordination aspects of the technology from the beginning and is excited about the potential for future applications that comes along with this new use.
"Developed through a highly successful joint effort between CHL and GSL, the LMCS was featured as part of the Joint Enable Theater Access -- Sea Ports of Debarkation Advanced Technical Demonstration," said Fowler. "In addition to its original mission of providing a vessel-to-shore link for military vessels, the LMCS has been successfully demonstrated in a variety of uses, including wet gap crossing and delivery/emplacement using a CH-47 helicopter and U.S. Army Multi-Role Bridge Company assets. Now, with this new use, the LMCS is further expanding its capabilities."
After being contacted by the Marines and an initial meeting, Padula headed overseas and was on hand to personally support the Combat Logistics Detachment 302, III Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force during the Asia-based Exercise T-AKE 14-1, which demonstrates Humanitarian Assistance Survey Team afloat capabilities supporting U.S. Pacific Command survey objectives and prepositioning of capabilities in the event of a natural disaster. The event focused on humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, as well as the low-end range of military operations training, military-to-military coordination and expanded regional engagement beyond traditional Marine Expeditionary Units or strategic lift constraints.
No modifications were made to the LMCS; instead, researchers simply used three LMCS modules that were assembled to create the 30 feet long by 20 feet wide platform. The modules were trucked from Vicksburg, Mississippi, to Travis Air Force Base, California, and then flown by military airlift to Okinawa, Japan. Padula oversaw the loading of the LMCS and sailed with the Marines to Malaysia to prepare for the event. Most of the activities took place aboard the ship and in the waters near the east coast of the Malay Peninsula near Mersing, Malaysia. Results were good -- the LMCS performed virtually exactly as planned.
"The Marines were trained in the operation and use of the LMCS, both through instruction I provided and in actual hands-on experience during the exercise, using the system in this novel application," said Padula. "At the end of the exercise, the operations officer for CLD 302 said the LMCS proved to be a reliable means to transport equipment ashore."