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Review&Forecast—January 2010 Issue

Ship-to-Shore Causeway System For Military and Emergency Operations

By Dr. Don Resio
Senior Scientist
Dr. Jimmy Fowler
Associate Technical Director
Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory
U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center

The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center is developing and demonstrating the capabilities of the innovative Lightweight Modular Causeway System (LMCS) to support both military and disaster response operations requirements.

The LMCS was developed under the Joint Enable Theater Access-Sea Ports of Debarkation Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration with a primary focus on addressing the Department of Defense's requirement for vessels to conduct autonomous offloading operations at austere sites—locations with damaged, inferior or nonexistent sea port infrastructure. The LMCS is also showing great potential as a 'wet gap' crossing system for coastal areas, rivers and streams.

The LMCS uses a combination of concepts from fixed bridging and floating causeway systems. It is designed to be transported and rapidly deployed from current and future vessels, including the new joint high-speed vessel.

Existing Army causeway systems are heavy (90 tons per 80-foot length), require strategic sealift-class vessels with large cranes, warping tugs, and extensive time and manpower to deploy. The new LMCS only weighs 28 tons per 80-foot length, emplacement requires one rigid-hull inflatable boat, and as few as seven soldiers can deploy 120 feet of the system in about three hours. The LMCS is designed to survive 20-foot waves.

The system is easy to transport—a 40-foot section of the LMCS has the same footprint as a standard 20-foot International Shipping Organization container. Each LMCS 40-foot section is composed of four modules that weigh approximately 6,500 pounds each, so each 'four pack' of LMCS weighs approximately 26,000 pounds. As many LMCS sections as necessary can be deployed to bridge the gap from ship to shore. The LMCS causeway sections are supported by flotation tubes that are rapidly filled with minimal air pressure (one to three pounds-force per square inch gauge), yet, when fielded, the LMCS will be capable of supporting vehicles in excess of 70 tons.

Highly successful demonstrations of the LMCS were conducted in 2008 at Fort Eustis in Virginia and in Oahu, Hawaii. The ship-to-shore demonstrations included both a port and bare beach site location and offloading operations with military vehicles.

Continued improvement of the LMCS led to additional demonstrations of its enhanced capabilities in August and September 2009, again in Hawaii. The LMCS was successfully demonstrated in a bridging role and a new deployment option was also introduced.

During the August demonstration, LMCS capabilities such as expedient bridging were demonstrated in wet gap operations near the mouth of the Kumumauu Canal at Hickam Air Force Base on Oahu. The demonstration exercise scenario involved simulated damage to a bridge that was bypassed by the LMCS. The demonstration featured the transit of a simulated humanitarian assistance/disaster relief force, including a fire truck, from bank to bank.

The bridging application can be useful in both military and emergency relief operations. In military operations, bridges can be destroyed by the enemy, or forces may have to move into an area where bridges are nonexistent or create choke points. Damaged or denied bridges can also create problems during disaster relief and humanitarian operations, as was shown in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when highway bridges were destroyed. The Oahu demonstration showed the LMCS's capabilities and the great potential for bridging applications.

A second 2009 demonstration was conducted on Victor Pier 5 at the U.S. Naval Station in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to show an improved method for efficiently emplacing the LMCS from ships. This new emplacement method features a modified shipping and handling configuration for LMCS modules and uses commonly available conventional shipboard or land-based cranes instead of requiring a separate specialized launching-recovery system. An additional attractive feature of the revised shipping and handling configuration is that the LMCS can also be emplaced in a 'two-pack' configuration, which allows helicopter delivery and emplacement of 20-foot LMCS sections. This successful demonstration was reviewed by the U.S. Marine Corps Pacific Experimentation Center, and they gave the LMCS a very positive evaluation.

The next step in the LMCS's evolution is an experimental crossing of a fast-moving river. The LMCS will be emplaced and recovered by military personnel in Alaska as part of the Arctic Edge 2010 exercise. In addition, the two-pack method of delivery by Chinook helicopter will also be demonstrated.

The Army is currently pursuing the transition of the LMCS to the armed forces for operational field use. Pursuant to the development of formal acquisition documentation and obtaining procurement funding, the fielding of the first LMCS is planned for 2014 with the fielding of four subsequent systems (one per year) for each of the five associated Army joint high-speed vessels.

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