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Composite Technology to Improve Tactical Shelters
Composite shelters will eliminate many of the periodic maintenance costs of the metal
shelters while the overall repair operations are reduced by an estimated 80 percent.
By G. A. Volb / Ogden Air Logistics Center Public Affairs

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah, July 21, 2006 – The 84th Combat Sustainment Group, Tactical Shelter, Radome, and Tower Program Office is responsible for management of Air Force hard wall tactical shelters.

Tactical shelters are used to house communications electronic gear for fixed or mobile deployment.  The shelters can be configured as command posts, briefing rooms, medical facilities, etc. 

Presently tactical shelters are primarily manufactured of metal and foam in various types of construction configurations. Periodic maintenance of the metal shelters through out the Department of Defense cost millions of dollars annually.

"This shelter development was particularly challenging because of the electromagnetic interference requirements."

Chuck Bauman, lead engineer

The Air Force Tactical Shelter, Radome, and Tower Program Office is heavily engaged in Advanced Composite technology insertion initiatives.

They have focused their efforts on stimulating technology research to provide the government with cost-effective technical and scientific solutions to challenging problems and bringing to the table desperately needed new technologies.

The key to their success in this area has been the ability to leverage individual programs, projects, and “parallel” efforts to the greatest overall benefit for the Air Force.

The focus for the advanced development efforts currently in place and proposed for the future is to identify the most promising breakthrough technologies for aggressive further development; make further improvements in advanced composite materials applications; reduce processing complexities and costs; develop optimum component design, manufacturing, and production processes; and perform evaluation and qualification/validation tests.

The cost savings to the Defense Department comes in the fact that engineering data estimates the life of the composite shelters to be approximately 30 years.

The composite material is recyclable and will not require painting or corrosion preventative treatments. It is also resistant to ultraviolet degradation and has greater thermal retention than sheet metal.

By using 100 percent composite technology provisioning and maintenance costs will be reduced.  The single largest cost savings is associated with the reduction in repair requirements.

Composite shelters eliminate many of the periodic maintenance costs of the metal shelters. Estimates are that overall repair operations are reduced by 80 percent.

Also as a result of improved thermal efficiency of the composite shelter, energy requirements are reduced by 25 percent. 

Advanced thermoplastic composite materials and processes have recently been developed with the ability to meet or exceed existing structural integrity requirements for many applications.

These technologies offer superior performance and will significantly reduce cost burdens associated with corrosion protection, deterioration, and repair.

They have demonstrated the feasibility of low-cost composite manufacturing processes that enable the affordable production of shelters for military, multi-service, applications.

And, that the physical, mechanical, and structural performance will meet or exceed the requirements for Defense Department as well as commercial applications. 

One of the development projects was to design, build, and test a Composite Lightweight Maintenance Shelter that is made to be transported on a High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle.

These 8’ x 7’x 5’ shelters house the system equipment, and provide protection from extreme heat, sand storms, common dirt, humidity and rain, while providing personnel with user-friendly working environment.

The composite development hasn’t gone from ideas to production overnight. 

Three years in development, the new shelters cost between $30-40,000, depending on the particular requirements requested for each, said Chuck Bauman, lead engineer for Air Force Tactical Shelters here with the 84th Combat Sustainment Group.

“This shelter development was particularly challenging because of the electromagnetic interference requirements,” he emphasized.

“The metallic conductive surfaces present in metal shelters is not there in composite construction, therefore other methods of providing conductive paths had to be created, which was done successfully,” Bauman explained. “It’s an important requirement.”

“The prototype was developed and tested by our shelter program office, in cooperation with a small company (Triton Systems) under a small business innovative research contract,” he said.

Terry Holland, product group manager for Air Force tactical shelters indicated that “One of the shelter industries largest suppliers – AAR Cadillac – has teamed with Triton Systems to make the first production run of the new shelters.”

Holland said the first shelters completed may be used by mobile medical units throughout the world.
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Oct. 21, 2014
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