NATICK, Mass. (Army News Service, Oct. 23, 2006) - The Natick Soldier Center's Unitized Group Ration-Express provides a group dining capability anytime, anywhere.With a quick pull of a tab, the meals are ready in 30 to 45 minutes and provide a change of pace from Meals, Ready-to-Eat (MREs). UGR-E modules serve hot meals for up to 18 warfighters without requiring kitchen equipment, cooks, fuel or a power source. UGR-Es also reduce the costs and logistical burden associated with using a field kitchen."Warfighters would utilize the UGR-E in locations where they are unable to use a Mobile Kitchen Trailer, but want a group dining capability. This could be before MKTs make it to the field or if they are located too far away for the group to congregate there. UGR-Es also eliminate the need for trucks to bring them food in insulated containers," said Shari Dangel, an NSC physical scientist."The UGR-E borrows technology from the MRE's Flameless Ration Heater to heat the food. These magnesium-based heaters produce a significant amount of heat with relatively small amounts of raw material. All that is required to start the reaction is mixing salt water with the magnesium. The UGR-E contains four heaters that are 10 times the size of each single FRH heater," explained Dangel.There are two types of UGR-Es. The Type I UGR-E requires warfighters to place the four heaters into the heater trays before pulling the tab. With Type II UGR-Es, the heaters are sealed into the heater trays. Warfighters need to pull one tab that will uncover the heaters and then pull a second tab that will release the activator solution.According to Peter Lavigne, NSC chemical engineer, "To meet the immediate needs of the services, an accelerated development effort will field the UGR-E initially as Type I, and later the Type II will be transitioned as improvements in the heating system are completed. We're also investigating other opportunities to improve the concept, to include the use of coated fiber heating trays that are low cost, lightweight and offer improved disposability and recyclability."According to Dangel, the first offering of the UGR-E will include three breakfast menus and six lunch/dinner menus. The meals can be easily transported with the unit. The four six-pound polymeric traypacks include an entrAffA,Ae, vegetable, starch, dessert, plus snacks as well as dining trays, beverages, eating utensils and serving utensils."While the food is heating wrfighters can enjoy the snack items included in the UGR-E. These can include M&M's, Reese's Pieces, Trail Mix and powdered beverages," said Dangel.Warfighters who have evaluated the UGR-Es have liked that they do not have to rely on drivers to bring them food in insulated containers cooked in field kitchens hours beforehand, Dangel said. They can wait until they are almost ready to eat to start heating the food, then eat it while it's still hot.The technology most benefits small, remote units operating in austere environments. According to Dangel, prototype UGR-E's have been sent to both Afghanistan and Iraq.Future improvements are already in the works."An Enhancement Box, or E-Box, is also being developed to provide a supplement for the UGR-E. It will include milk, cereal, bread, and other complementary items that will increase the variety and nutrition offered by the ration," said Lavigne.