Timber is a valuable raw material, both for reinforcing field defences and creating vehicle obstacles (even with the advent of HESCO)
Whether it is at an Infantry Battalion or a Royal Engineers Support Squadron level, there are tools and equipment that can be used for processing timber into useful and usable material.
Unit stores will have petrol driven chainsaws but for moving logs, transport will be limited to general service vehicles or trailers. A couple of quad trailer models (SMT 171B and SMT 120B) from Logic are in service.
Neither of which are particularly suited to moving logs efficiently but for those units that are equipped with quads, log trailers are available off the shelf.
Similar trailers are also available for Land Rover sized vehicles as well.
Basic hand tools such as log jaws and lifters make manipulating the finished logs into position somewhat more convenient.
These may seem almost trivial considerations but (together with a chainsaw) allow one man to cut, process and transfer logs quickly and efficiently. There is no need to process logs into sectional timber if only suitable diameter trees are felled.
Moving up the organisational ladder, and making the assumption that this would be a solely Royal Engineers capability, more specialist timber processing equipment would allow the higher volume generation of suitably sized timber for field defences.
Instead of using whole logs, timber could be quickly processed into boards and posts, then transported to the appropriate location and used as needed.
Felling and Cutting to Length
If we can avoid specialist, single purpose, equipment, then that is probably a good thing.
The existing C Vehicle Volvo wheeled and tracked excavators, and possibly the CAT Skid Loaders, can use a variety of attachments to increase the speed of tree felling and initial processing.
They are widely used in the forestry industry and available from a variety UK and overseas suppliers.
A more sophisticated system, whilst still being an ‘attachment’ is the harvester head. These not only cut the main tree limb but also remove branches and cut to uniform length, harvesting and processing using the same device. Some of these devices can also be used on the numerous JCB 3CX and 4CX backhoe loaders.
The forestry industry makes use of a range of specialised vehicles and equipment but for the purpose of generating timber for field defences the devices above should be sufficient.
If only tree limbs of a suitable diameter are processed then there is no need for further processing, they are simply used as is. However, if only large diameter trees are available then breaking down the raw material into smaller slabs allows maximum use from a single tree.
Mobile saw mills can be used immediately after harvesting and cutting.
Post pointers are used to quickly put a sharp point on a post to ease driving when used as revetment or reinforcement.
With harvesting, milling and post pointing devices a large volume of usable product can be processed quickly and with minimal personnel, and best of all, none of this equipment is especially expensive.
Once trees have been converted to posts and timber section, they would need to be transported forward and distributed as required.
The existing vehicle fleet of MAN SV and Iveco self-loading dump trucks would be more than sufficient but one or two improvements could be made to improve throughput and efficiency.
Trailers are a great way of maximising capacity and forestry trailers are available for everything from quad bikes and JCB 3CX Sitemasters to the largest articulated trucks.
A timber clamp for the IVECO Self Loading Dump truck or Truck Mounted Loader would allow for quicker loading and offloading.
Existing trucks can be quickly converted using TimberMaxx bolsters and subframes, another cheap and quick solution.
Finally, hooklift forestry platforms would enable the DROPS/EPLS fleet to be used for transporting logs and processed posts.
The main point with these suggestions is simply to improve our ability to generate usable timber products quickly, with minimal personnel overhead, and at a more than modest cost.
Timber is not necessarily the best product for the job but in many potential operational locations, it is abundant and good enough.