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Break Down Those Walls! Army Engineer School at Fort Leonard Wood helps develop new way to demolish walls
Break Down Those Walls! Army Engineer School at Fort Leonard Wood helps develop new way to demolish walls

A soldier steps through a breached, double-reinforced concrete wall at Fort Polk, Louisiana, during a demonstration May 7 of wall-breaching technology. (Photo by Army Public Affairs)
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. (June 19, 2014) — A famed running back in the National Football League once said all he needed was "12 inches of daylight" to bolt ahead and churn out the yardage for the offense. 

Army engineers are improving the ability of soldiers to create a man-size hole through a variety of walls to press the offensive. Sgt. 1st Class Nick Ochs, a combat engineer with the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, explained the advantages of the new technology.

"I feel that this technology will benefit the warfighters on the ground by allowing them the opportunity to have a rapidly deployable charge that is capable of clearly breaching a DRC (double-reinforced concrete) wall, as well as being able to configure the charge to reduce the NEW (net explosive weight) in order to breach less dense and structurally sound targets as well," Ochs said. 

A demonstration of the scalable/selectable breacher wall-breaching capability in early development was successfully conducted May 7 at Fort Polk, La.

The testing is part of the Army's science and technology program. Development of the wall-breaching capability is a collaboration between engineers with the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal, and with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, the research arm of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The SSB demonstrated a single system breaching capability to defeat concrete masonry units, triple layer brick and double-reinforced concrete walls creating a man-size hole with a single shot. Single-and double-layer adobe walls were tested previously and produced successful results but were not available in time for the demonstration.

"This solution can be tailored for various types of walls, and uses our current explosive and initiating systems," said James Rowan, Deputy Commandant of the U.S. Army Engineer School at Fort Leonard Wood.

"We saw demos on double reinforced concrete walls, triple brick walls, and standard CMU walls," Rowan added. "All demos were very successful and the live results were almost exactly as depicted in the computer simulations and numerical models."

Overcoming Challenges

The technology has been extremely effective against double reinforced concrete, a very difficult target. The biggest challenge was not only to remove the concrete but also to clear the rebar in a single shot, while creating a man-sized breachable hole.

Previous development capability could only remove the concrete, leaving the rebar exposed, where it would have to be removed in a secondary operation using a rebar cutter attached to the M-4 rifle or a Broco torch.

Post-demonstration discussions confirmed that the SSB fills the capability gap in breaching walls. The goal is to continue refining and testing its capability, while exploring weight reduction, alternate explosives and configurations.

The overall reaction of the noncommissioned officers attending the demonstration was that the technology can be a force multiplier, and will aid Warfighters while reducing their burden.

Staff Sgt. Fallando Carter, Jr., a live-fire breacher instructor at Folk Polk, has requested a SSB Breacher system to be used during upcoming training later this year. The operational test data will be valuable in establishing additional data to refine the system.

Andrew Woetzel and Roy Seppelt from ARDEC, and Jay Ehrgott, Tim Shelton, and Jeff Averett from ERDC, coordinated and demonstrated the SSB capability.

The demonstration also included representatives from the Program Manager Close Combat Systems, Soldiers from the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Capability Development and Integration Directorate, Joint Readiness Training Center Combat Engineers, both from TF-4 and live fire team stationed at Fort Polk, along with noncommissioned officers from the Urban Mobility Breachers Course.

With additional refinements incorporated into the SSB and a follow-on demonstration against additional target sets, the technology will then transition to the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the acquisition life cycle.

The Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations.

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