NATICK, Mass. (Feb. 17, 2012) -- Your unit deployed so rapidly to the remote location that there was no time to set up sandbags and concrete barriers to protect the base camp.
Those systems are heavy and time-consuming to erect. And by the time you establish them, today's fluid battlefield might have you up and moving again.
So how do you protect Soldiers in these temporary camps? The Modular Ballistic Protection System, known as MBPS, under development at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, or NSRDEC, with help from the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center, was designed to fill that crucial gap.
"When you set up your tent, it's sometimes weeks or months before you get any kind of sandbag protection or concrete protection," said Karen Horak, senior mechanical engineer, Collective Protection Systems Team, Shelter Technology, Engineering & Fabrication Directorate at NSRDEC. "We had to give (Soldiers) an initial protection level."
MBPS, in development since 2005, offers a lightweight, portable, rapidly deployable solution to the problem of unprotected shelters at expeditionary base camps. Designed to fill the requirement of a ballistic add-on kit for the Force Provider expeditionary base camp system, MBPS has versions that can protect tents, field kitchens and rigid-wall containers or be used in the standard stand-alone configurations.
"You can put it around a GP (general purpose) tent," Horak said. "You can put it around a mortar pit. You can put it around anything you want."
MBPS can be installed around a shelter in less than an hour by four Soldiers working without special tools. The system doesn't adversely affect shelters or missions. The 7-by-4-foot composite ballistic panels, which weigh roughly 117 pounds each, cost less than $20 per square foot.
"You can get some protection right away, and it's very simple," Horak said. "There's like four parts to the whole system. Anything you want to protect, you can protect, and you could protect it really quickly."
The system developers sought to protect against fragmentation and blast waves where Soldiers work, sleep and eat. NSRDEC modeling efforts predict significantly lower numbers of casualties where MBPS is deployed.
"I think that can truly enhance the mission because the Soldiers have a home that's protected, right away," Horak said. "You can sleep at night, you know?"
Already, tests have been conducted on ballistic protection, blast overpressure resilience, environmental threats, transportation challenges, and safety/human factors, and have included Soldier and in-theater evaluations.
"We've tested all the systems to withstand overpressure," said Nick Tino, a mechanical engineer on the Special Projects Team. "We're careful not to say it's blast proof or blast resistant. It's really blast survivable. It's designed to stay in place to do its main task of providing ballistic protection."
Future initiatives include an anchorless system that can be used in any terrain, increased ballistic protection, earthen fill options for more permanent bases, overhead threat protection, flexible ballistic panels, and high-performance panels.
"It's such a unique use and system type that there are always new pieces and new stuff that we're trying to put together and integrate in," Tino said. "It's always evolving."
MBPS could be fielded as early as fiscal year 2014, which would give the Collective Protection Systems Team members a great sense of accomplishment.
"For us, it's really been about the Soldier," said team member Claudia Quigley. "We have a lot of requests from the field, from the Soldier, and that we're actually able to deliver a capability to the Soldier -- that really makes our day. That's why we're here."