WARREN, Michigan-- What's the big deal about a dent? If it's in the wrong place, on the wrong vehicle, possibly plenty. Now, though, due to some innovative thinking by the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center's (TARDEC) famed engineers, a problem that might send a Stryker to the shop for days may be a routine repair.
It's called the, "Stryker Ramp Channel Repair Tool," an inauspicious name, though far-reaching in its effects through the force. It fixes a recurring problem spot, the easily-damaged vehicle part where the Stryker's body meets its hatch, called the ramp channel. Easily and frequently dented and bent when debris is caught as the hatch is closing, the damage nonetheless prevents the hatch's rubber seal from correctly seating.
"One of the vehicle maintenance warrant officers with the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, noticed the damaged ramp channel during a routine inspection," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Mike Gammon, the maintenance technical advisor for Program Manager, Stryker Brigade Combat Team. "When he looked for the problem on more vehicles, he noticed the damage was on dozens of the unit's Strykers. If the hatch doesn't seal, the vehicle needs to be repaired before it can be put into operation again."
That maintenance warrant officer, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Shawn Hubbs, was conducting his brigade's regular maintenance surge before a major training rotation.
"We conduct a Stryker Service Rodeo that is managed by the Brigade Support Battalion at the Brigade level here at Fort Wainwright twice a year," said Hubbs. "It was during this time that I walked the bays full of Strykers and noticed that, on a large number of the vehicles we had in the bay, the ramp channels were bent and damaged."
After surveying the brigade's Stryker fleet and finding more than 120 bent ramp channels, Hubbs submitted his request to the Army's agency that oversees the Army's tanks and automobiles for welding service to fix the channels. Hubbs was concerned this issue might be more widespread, however.
"I also sent this issue up to the G4 senior warrant officers at 7th Infantry Division and I Corps so they could put this out to a larger audience," said Hubbs.
The activity reached CW3 Gammon and his team at PM Stryker.
Ordinarily, such damage requires either a visit from the manufacturer's repair team or a return of the damaged vehicle to a depot, where it may be out-of-service for days. Looking for a better answer, Gammon went to TARDEC, the Army's R&D center for all of its ground vehicles, including the Stryker.
"We've been working with TARDEC's engineers and technicians on another program already, so we brought this to Jim to see if there was anything they could do," said Gammon.
Jim Douglas, a supervisory engineering technician with TARDEC's Center for Systems Integration (CSI), took the problem to task.
"This was a need that they had; they needed a way to fix the bent ramp channel efficiently," said Douglas. "I had been thinking through some possible solutions and started to put something together."
Before long and after only two prototypes, Douglas has a working model. The new tool is then immediately brought to Alaska.
"We fixed 109 vehicles, it was very successful," said Douglas. "From the time we were aware there was a problem for which we needed a solution to bending the Stryker hull channels in Alaska back in place was two weeks."
"This tool is invaluable," said Gammon. "From the resources saved by doing these repairs ourselves to the time saved from not having to take the Strykers out of active use, the innovation and expertise Jim and his team put into this solution is remarkable."
Douglas wants to add a couple improvements for the tool, and is looking forward to its broader adoption and use. The entire process, from design through metal fabrication, was conducted in-house at TARDEC's Prototype Integration Facility in Warren, Michigan.
For more information, contact TARDEC Public Affairs Officer Doug Halleaux, douglas.g.halleaux.civ@mail.mil.