Rapid deployment anywhere, anytime, by any transport mode and under any conditions, has been the watchword of U.S. expeditionary forces for more than a decade, and that’s not going to change. Getting all the gear to remote locations, fast and in fighting shape, is a huge challenge. But vendors have developed a wide range of containers and cases to do the job reliably.
AAR Mobility Systems leads the world in making air-transportable containers, stressed Jeannine Taylor of AAR. It is the sole manufacturer of the ISU Container, whose design meets or exceeds Department of Defense standards for air transportation of equipment and supplies.
With over 40 different configurations available, AAR containers can be easily customized for any mission, including armories, laundries, refrigeration, dog kennels, gun rooms, maintenance, all terrain vehicle storage, and more. ISUs can be delivered by land, sea or air in any cargo aircraft in the world.
AAR ISUs are now in their third generation, the 56000 series or Gen X Container. The latest ISUs enable fast load and off-load speeds and lock into aircraft cargo-restraint systems with no pallets or tie-down chains. On arrival, many ISUs convert into workspaces for using equipment.
“Non-militarized or unproven containers require additional pallets or tie-downs to be loaded safely,” Taylor noted. This increases loading man-hours and costs. Some alternatives have locking rails, but have not been tested and certified, posing safety questions.
ISUs have certified lifting rings and rigid space frames so they can be slung externally under rotary wing aircraft. Uncertified rings and frames could cause catastrophic damage to aircraft, container contents and anything beneath them.
The AAR containers keep military goods dry by meeting MIL-STD-810 for water tightness, and they are painted with chemical agent resistant coatings according to MIL-DTL-53039.
AAR’s newest ISU, the 90 FC, is a full cube with the center wall removed to allow for storage and transport of larger items.
Seabox is the military’s largest supplier of smaller modular containers, the bicons, tricons and quadcons that can be linked together on a ship up to 20 feet in length, said Sales Vice President Nick Catanzariti.
These customized shipping solutions come with tracks on walls, shelving, modular cabinets and special doors to suit each shipping need. Doors can be opened and the entire container or one of its inserts, for example a cabinet, can be installed at destination shops.
Seabox racks use a special glide technology so drawers can slide easily in and out, with no ball bearings to get clogged with dirt or grime. Inside drawers have partitions that can be moved to yield different configurations, and foam inserts are shaped in outlines of tools and components.
Container modules can be lifted by 10,000-pound forklifts and stacked with dimples matched to prevent sliding. “Each module has a locking point for a forklift. You do not have to worry about how to stock at the destination; it is all organized at base and just moved to stockrooms,” Catanzariti summarized. There are shelves for larger items such as batteries and engines and special racks for weapons.
Seabox containers can have doors on both sides or roll-up doors if there is no room for swinging a door open—for example, for mid-air access inside a C130. The standard footprint of Seabox containers allows them to ship on affordable commercial vessels without wasting space or paying overage fees for extra room. The inter-modal containers can move by sea, land or air.
Tim Smith, Vidmar sales engineer, sees the Army facing big challenges in sorting out containers and their contents after return from theater. And he sees military shipments as moving increasingly away from ships to air for rapid deployment. To assist that shift, Vidmar specializes in inserts that go inside containers, even if there are no hard points to support them.
Vidmar’s Rapid Deployment Container Insert can handle small tools, bench stock, test equipment, weapons and a wide variety of other equipment. “It fits in many different kinds of containers,” Smith said. “You put it in and then you can pull it out and the container returns to its original configuration.”
The Vidmar Insert provides ready access to its contents, yielding faster retrieval times for mission-critical equipment. It fits any tricon, quadcon or 20-foot container without welds or modification.
It can be deployed with either a pallet jack or a forklift and handles up to 4,000 pounds. Vidmar inserts can hold anything from generators to toolboxes, cabinets or drone units.
Pelican Products offer two brands, Pelican Classic and Pelican Hardigg, a company acquired five years ago. Chief Executive Officer Lyndon Faulkner said all Pelican cases are designed to protect gear in extremely demanding environments. The company offers hundreds of cases built to military specifications. “These can carry missiles, footlockers or trunks for soldiers, helicopter blades, almost anything,” said Faulkner.
Customers could buy similar-looking Chinese or knock-off aluminum cases, but these may break, crack or admit water, the Pelican CEO said. Pelican cases are made of very robust, injection-molded plastic, are waterproof and airtight, and will not break or crack.
The firm makes cases sized and shaped for special uses and others in standard sizes that are configured for special uses. Examples of Pelican flexibility are two new cases. The first uses Pelican’s standard tough technology for a line of cases, BioPharma, that can keep contents at the same temperature for up to five days. This would be useful in carrying food, a number of chemicals, blood, vaccines and other temperature-sensitive materials.
Pelican has also introduced tough cases for consumer electronic devices such as iPods, iPhones and Samsung Galaxies. Defense personnel—especially pilots and aircraft maintenance workers, but soon probably more—are starting to use these devices. The Pelican design lets soldiers use the devices while still in the case. Faulkner, who came from Microsoft, understands how fast personal computing tools can spread.
SKB makes injection-molded, single-lid cases; rotationally-molded, single-lid cases; rotationally-molded, double-end, shock-and-vibration isolation rack-mount cases; and thermo-formed, single-lid cases. Robert Wilkes, senior vice president of global operations, said this suite of SKB cases is suitable for protecting any type of gear that needs to be either stored or moved for deployment. “All U.S. military branches, as well as special forces and NATO partners, currently use and deploy with SKB cases.”
SKB manufactures its cases in Orange, Calif. Wilkes said SKB’s rotationally-molded cases are the only ones on the market that have lifetime unconditional warranties. The company’s line of injection-molded cases features a patented trigger-release latch that Wilkes called “undisputedly the best latch available.”
SKB has developed a co-polymer polypropylene for its 3i series of injection-molded cases that Wilkes said is far superior to anything on the market in impact strength. “Because of this special polymer, the SKB case is typically 10 to 15 percent lighter than [that of] our competition and has over 2.8 times the impact strength.”
All SKB standard cases come fully loaded with stainless-steel hardware, pressure-relief valves and other items that other manufacturers sell as options or upgrades, Wilkes noted. “Another big advantage is that SKB stocks all products, so we are a true commercial off-the-shelf case company.”
SKB constantly releases new case sizes and designs. It currently has five new case sizes in the tooling stage and, right behind them, five more in the design stage. “SKB Corporation is the true alternative to all other case companies and provides a better product to users,” Wilkes argued.
Thermodyne has made rugged military cases since 1958. “We offer over 600 sizes and have over 50 years of tooling on-hand,” noted Product Manager Josh Ackerman. The company offers complete foam customization with no minimums and no cutting cost. It manufactures rugged MIL-SPEC-compliant containers and cases from 8 inches all the way up to 20 feet in length. “We’ve worked on everything from sensitive electronic parts for the space shuttle to rugged training stations for the MILES and Javelin programs.”
Thermodyne’s most rugged line of traditional containers is its ShokStop models. These are fully ruggedized containers and offer what Ackerman called “the best hardware protection in the industry.”
Thermodyne also offers a line of Slimline rolling cases with retractable handle and wheels for easy transport.
For rack-mount equipment, Thermodyne makes a complete line of 19-inch Electronic Industries Association shipping racks for 1RU to 32RU (rack units). All Thermodyne racks are built and sealed to military specifications, feature fully shock-isolated frames and are manufactured in the U.S. to International Standardization Organization quality standards.
Thermodyne also offers ToroCase gun cases in over 25 sizes. These can hold single guns or, in larger models, sets of 10, 15 or 20 guns.
Ackerman said his firm makes custom shipping cases for nearly every application. These cases are built and tested for all modes of shipment, from truck and cargo handling to airline check-in and freight. “Every single container is engineered and manufactured for specific customer requirements. We ask our customers how the container will be used and in what environment. Our engineers work with the customer to determine what is the best solution for them and we build it.” Then every aspect of the build is handled in-house, which allows Thermodyne to keep tight control over lead time and quality.
The company uses a thermoforming process that allows customers to customize the size of their containers without extra charges. “This process also allows us to manufacture a case that is more rugged, yet weighs 20 to 30 percent less,” Ackerman said.
All Thermodyne containers are made with military-grade polyethylene, which flexes to mitigate shocks from impact and vibration. Polyethylene is also impervious to gasoline, moisture and aviation fuel.
Thermodyne containers also use aircraft-quality aluminum for reliability and protection. Closure systems use an aluminum tongue and groove to compresses a neoprene gasket seal for an uncompromising hold. Latches are made of zinc-coated or stainless steel based on customer needs. Unused latches spring back to a flat position to prevent damage.
Ackerman emphasized that every single Thermodyne case is fully customizable. There are no minimum orders for customization. “Thermodyne will fully customize one single container if needed.” These fully customized cases take just a week or two to build.
Thermodyne has just introduced comfort-grip ergonomic handles to reduce stress and increase grip. It has also launched a line of handheld cases with contoured shoulder straps. Weighing only 4 to 5 pounds, these are rugged enough to be shipped through common carriers.
Ameripack makes and distributes watertight cases, military cases and hundreds of other cases for a wide variety of applications. It also offers custom foam inserts and standard cubed foam and divider systems.
The firm builds its own tools for its rotation-molded packing cases, noted Chief Executive Officer Peter Margin. “We design and engineer for specific customer needs, for military customers and for specific applications.” Typical uses are for electronics, weaponry, radar and satellite-communication equipment.
In addition to its own cases, Ameripack also offers injection-molded cases made by other firms such as SKB. “We are a hybrid,” Margin said. “We build our own rotation-molded cases and sell other manufacturers’ injection-molded models.” Indeed, Margin said his firm is the largest U.S. distributor of injection-molded cases except for the manufacturers themselves.
Ameripack maintains a large inventory of case in its inventory so it can deliver fast, within 24 hours. It also has packing engineers on staff. “Tell us how many Gs you need to withstand on the drop and we can design for that,” Margin said. “We don’t need to go outside.”
The firm also does its own 3-D modeling, so it can share 3-D files with customers and accept 3-D files from customers.
Every six weeks, Ameripack builds tools to make a new case. It has two new shock-mounted rack systems that will come out in a few months. “A lot of work for electronics is coming our way now,” Margin said. “Military customers like these. They are becoming the preferred choices.”
Margin added that Ameripack is also a philanthropic company, both raising and donating to funds to veterans’ groups. ♦
- Issue: 5
- Volume: 8