Military Pallets, Boxes and Containers – Part 4 Container and Flat Rack Handling

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There is no point having a load of containers if you cannot move them from the container port, moving them from rail cars and storage yards to the point of need requires various ‘big boys toys’

Container Handlers

The Royal Corps of Transport was always at the forefront of logistics developments and its use of the ISO container was no different.

By the end of the sixties container traffic had exceeded that of other types through the BAOR supply chain.

RCT BAOR ISO Container freight service
RCT BAOR ISO Container freight service

Handling the containers was done with a combination of cranes and container handlers like those from Lancer Boss

RCT ISO Container Handling
RCT ISO Container Handling at Marchwood Military Port
Lancer Boss RTCH - Image Plain Military
Lancer Boss RTCH – Image Plain Military

With increasing use of ISO containers in general and increasing use away from established hard standing areas like rail yards and storage locations there became a need for an all terrain container handler, we were not alone in this either.

Developed in close co-operation with the US Army, the RTCH is designed to handle containers in extreme conditions. Based on Kalmar’s reach stacker designs, the four-wheel-drive, four-wheel-steer machines can operate in mud, sand and up to 1.8 metres of salt water. CH can pick up two 20-foot railroad shipping containers at a time, or one 40-foot container, as opposed to the inefficient “one by one” method. Containers may be stacked three units high with the RTCH and the total lifting capacity is just over 24 tonnes. It is also surf zone capable and travels from beach to barge; retrieving containers and stacking them on dry land.

In the late nineties the US Army recognised the need to take advantage of civilian containerisation and issued an operational requirements document to which Kalmar, Caterpillar and Liftking Industries responded. The contract was awarded to Kalmar in 2000 with deliveries on the first batch of 346 RT240 Rough Terrain Container Handlers being completed at the end of 2004, other orders followed and it is still in production.

Kalamar RT240 Rough Terrain Container Handler
Kalamar RT240 Rough Terrain Container Handler

The US Third Infantry Division (Mechanized) Operation Iraqi Freedom after action report provided a glowing testimonial;

Vital to the rapid resupply of divisional troops are rough terrain container hand lers (RTCH), as most of the corps and theater logistics pushes arrived on flatbed trailers with containers.

A number of RTCH were obtained under an Urgent Operational requirement for Operation Telic and the National Audit Office report noted that over 9,000 containers were used;

Increasingly, the Department’s operations involve the use of International Organisation for Standardisation specified-shipping containers. Operation TELIC necessitated the use of some 9,103 such containers and exposed shortfalls in the Department’s ability to handle these containers both in the United Kingdom and in-theatre. While the Department procured an additional 20 container handling vehicles, 6 Supply Regiment highlighted thatit had only three container-handling vehicles to deal with several thousand containers

They are vital to operations and have been used extensively in Afghanistan.

Kalamar RT240 Rough Terrain Container Handler 06  - Image Plain Military
Kalamar RT240 Rough Terrain Container Handler – Image Plain Military
LIFT TRUCK - Kalmar RT 240 RTCH 18
LIFT TRUCK – Kalmar RT 240 RTCH 18
LIFT TRUCK - Kalmar RT 240 RTCH 12
LIFT TRUCK – Kalmar RT 240 RTCH
Kalmar RTCH
Kalmar RTCH

LIFT TRUCK - Kalmar RT 240 RTCH 04

U.S. Marine Kalmar RT240 Rough Terrain Container Handler

Afghanistan RTCH operations work in the snow

Kalmar RT RT240 Video

LIFT TRUCK ANCILS - Kalmar RT 240 RTCH Fork Set
LIFT TRUCK ANCILS – Kalmar RT 240 RTCH Fork Set

 

They are relatively manoeuvrable and the extendable boom, rotation and sideshift top handler allow precise placement of the container.

The designers also built in an ingenious system for reducing its height to facilitate transport, by moving the operator’s cab to one side, lowering it and then sinking the boom next to the cab the total height of the container handler is less than 3metres, thus enabling transport in a C-17 aircraft but at 53.5 tonnes it is still a big lift, filling the C17 with its 3.65m width, 15m length and 2.98m height in shipping configuration.

This preparation for air transport can be carried out in less than 30 minutes by one person with no external assistance, and without removing or dismantling any part of the machine.

Kalamar RT240 Rough Terrain Container Handler in Transport Mode
Kalamar RT240 Rough Terrain Container Handler in Transport Mode

Unlike most container handlers the RTCH uses a single tyre arrangement with both axles driven and steered; crab-steer is possible and all steering is computer controlled for precise tracking. The axles are unsprung and two-wheel drive and single-axle steer is possible for road travel.

The ‘retch’ is an impressive piece of equipment but with less than 20 in service relatively uncommon.

For use where the all terrain features are not required, the MoD has a number of Hyster container handlers

Marchwood MOD - Hyster Container Handler
Hyster Container Handler at Marchwood Military Port

 

DROPS and EPLS

In the early eighties the Army conducted a Battle Attrition Study and Review of Ammunition Rates and Scales for high intensity combat operations and combined with projected usage of Bar mines, a move to self propelled 155mm systems and longer lines of communication as a result of strategic plan changes the results were sobering, the existing ammunition stock and transport capacity would simply not be up to the job, a third of what was required in some areas. It was recognised that 75% of all available lift in BAOR would be required to keep up with the Royal Artillery alone. Although palletisation had made significant improvements in handling times it was still not enough and an increase in vehicles and personnel was not seen as likely, something else was needed.

We can safely say that the British Army pioneered hooklift systems in a military context, a real innovation that revolutionised logistics delivery speed.

By applying commercially proven hooklift systems (Marel Corporation) with a robust multi wheel drive truck and trailer, ammunition turnaround times were reduced by a factor of 6

The Demountable Rack Offload and Pickup System (DROPS) was used mainly in the artillery ammunition supply chain but also used for other commodities and specialist roles (bridging equipment for example)

The Leyland Medium Mobility DROPS were introduced in 1990 using a chassis originally developed by Scammell (of wheel nuts fame!). By the time the sales process had concluded Leyland had been purchased by DAF. The vehicle, called the medium Mobility Load Carrier (MMLC) has an 8×6 drivetrain and a payload of 15 tonnes. An important part of the overall DROPS system is the DROPS trailer that can carry the same payload as the towing vehicle. There were two variants of DROPS trailer, King and Queen, the former being made by King Trailers and the latter, Reynolds Boughton (no, I don’t get it either!). A 16 tonne low mobility version was also introduced in small numbers

DROPS (Image Credit - Plain Military)
Leyland MMLC DROPS (Image Credit – Plain Military)

Four years after the Leyland DAF MMLC came into service the Foden variant was introduced at a cost of £75m. This was obtained in much smaller numbers (400 as opposed to over 1,500) but was significantly more capable off road and designated the Improved medium Mobility Load Carrier (IMMLC). Payload is the same as the Leyland DAF vehicle.

Foden IMMLC DROPS
Foden IMMLC DROPS

Both were a significant increase in capability and have seen service in every operational theatre since their introduction.

The idea is very simple, instead of unloading pallets from a truck you unload the truck from the truck, the video below shows the basics of operation.

Loading and unloading the trailer was also simple but ingenious

DAF Leyland drops flatrack overzetten op de Reynolds trailer DPA Holland

And that really is that, such a simple system but one that hard far reaching consequences, everyone uses the system now.

The video below shows the AS90 in action, complete with DROPS

The DROPS flatrack is stackable

DROPS Flatrack
DROPS Flatrack

It also did not take long for the logisticians to start realising the system could also be used for light vehicle and equipment carriage instead of the traditional articulated transporters. Again, this system of moving vehicles and equipment such as generators or equipment shelters has seen much use.

DROPS.Doing what it does best….

DAF Leyland drops pakt flatrack op met MB van Gerard DPA Holland

Leyland DAF Drops pick up and unload of Land Rover Defender Tithonus

CVR(T) and Foden DROPS
CVR(T) and Foden low mobility DROPS
Foden DROPS and CVR(T) in the Balkans 01
Foden DROPS and CVR(T) in the Balkans
Leyland DROPS and CVR(T) 01
Leyland DROPS and CVR(T)
Leyland DROPS and Bv206
Leyland DROPS and Bv206
CVR(T) and Foden DROPS
CVR(T) and DROPS rack

 

It is often thought that the Foden and Leyland DROPS trucks cannot lift ISO containers, this is not the case.

An ISO container can be secured to a DROPS flat rack and both lifted simultaneously. Whilst this is possible it is not desirable for obvious reasons. They can also be fitted with the Container Handling Unit but although it was trialled, it was not bought into service. Hooklift compatible ISO containers are available.

DROP Flatrack and ISO Container
DROP Flatrack and ISO Container (Image credit Cold War Warrior)
Leyland DROPS CHU
Leyland DROPS CHU (Image Credit Plain Military)
20ft ISO Container with Hooklift attachment
20ft ISO Container with Hooklift attachment

The fleet had gradually declined until it stood at about 1,700 a couple of years ago and since then numbers have reduced even further, about 500 or so now with very few trailers, and these are all due out of service this year.

For operations in Afghanistan where artillery ammunition expenditure rates were relatively low and operations conducted from fixed locations the traditional role of the DROPS fleet was not required, supplying forward operating bases and general cargo movement was. With much greater use of ISO containers the MoD diverted about 90 HX77 SV’s from the core programme to be converted under an Urgent Operational Requirement called the Enhanced Palletized Load System or EPLS. Some of these have also been used for the REBS bridging system UOR and additional EPLS obtained.

 

British Army MAN SV Trucks Enhanced Palletised Load System (EPLS) Combat Logistic Patrol Afghanistan 01

 

A convoy logistics patrol, manned predominantly by members of the Queens Own Gurhka Logistics Regiment, delivers resupplies of rations, ammunition and other life support to A Company, 1 R WELSH at Showal. It is also carrying ISO containers of building materials to create a permanent patrol base for ANA and coalition forces. The speed of build has been incredible; the sangars and hesco walls have been built within 3 days of supplies being dropped off. Sergeant Adrian 'AD' Dixon, acts as Site Manager and keeps the build on track, with a punishing schedule that sees Afghan and Royal Engineers working on a 24/7 basis.Picture credit: Squadron Leader Dee Taylor, RAF
A convoy logistics patrol, manned predominantly by members of the Queens Own Gurhka Logistics Regiment, delivers resupplies of rations, ammunition and other life support to A Company, 1 R WELSH at Showal. It is also carrying ISO containers of building materials to create a permanent patrol base for ANA and coalition forces. The speed of build has been incredible; the sangars and hesco walls have been built within 3 days of supplies being dropped off. Sergeant Adrian ‘AD’ Dixon, acts as Site Manager and keeps the build on track, with a punishing schedule that sees Afghan and Royal Engineers working on a 24/7 basis.Picture credit: Squadron Leader Dee Taylor, RAF
Rapidly Emplaced Bridging System (REBS) (Image Credit - Plain Military)
Rapidly Emplaced Bridging System (REBS) (Image Credit – Plain Military)

EPLS can lift ISO containers without first placing them on a flatrack but in most other respects, EPLS is broadly similar to DROPS. The H Frame or Container Handling system uses ISO locks and can lift 8’0″, 8’6″ and 9’0″ containers with an optional kit for 4’0″ and 3’3″ half height containers.

EPLS can still lift the older flatracks, see if you can spot the difference…

ISO Container and CHU
ISO Container and CHU (Image Credit; Plain Military)
EPLS and 20ft ISO Container on DROPS Flatrack (Image Credit Plain Military)
EPLS and 20ft ISO Container on DROPS Flatrack (Image Credit Plain Military)

As can be seen in the image below the Container Handling Unit can adjust to suit different height containers.

Container Handling Unit
Container Handling Unit

EPLS has been a great success in Afghanistan and will now be bought into the core fleet.

There is still a gap in the Improved medium Mobility category and the non Articulated Vehicle Programme (NAVP), formerly the Heavy Load Distribution Capability (HLDC) programme, will seek to consolidate and replace the Foden and Leyland DROPS vehicles.

They were originally intended to be out of service this year and although there was some desire to life extend until 2020, it does look like 2014 will be the end of the DROPS fleet.

Current and Future Vehicles
Current and Future Vehicles

More on future vehicles later in the series

Rail Transfer Equipment

The logistics review that concluded with a requirement for DROPS also detailed a requirement for equipment to transfer flatracks from railway cargo flats to either DROPS or non DROPS vehicles.

Two versions were introduced in 1990, Rail Transfer Equipment (RTE) and EKA Simple Rail Transport Equipment (SRTE), the principle distinction was one was trailer mounted and the other mounted on a DROPS style flatrack

Simple Rail Transport Equipment Flat rack (Image Credit Plain Military)
Simple Rail Transport Equipment Flat rack (Image Credit Plain Military)
Simple Rail Transport Equipment
Simple Rail Transport Equipment
Rail Transfer Equipment
Rail Transfer Equipment
Rail Transfer Equipment Trailer 02 - Image Plain Military 01
Rail Transfer Equipment Trailer 02 – Image Plain Military 01

Rail Tranfer Equipment 2

These are now out of service, replaced with the RTCH and Hyster container handlers.

 

The rest of the series…

Part 1 – Introduction and General Principles

Part 2 – Pallets

Part 3 – Containers and Flatracks

Part 4 – Container and Flatrack Handling

Part 5 – Boxes

Part 6 – Air Transport Pallets and Containers

Part 7 – Air Despatch

Part 8 – Issues and Solutions for Pallets, Containers and Boxes

Part 9 – Trucks and Trailers

Part 10 – More Thoughts  on Trucks and Trailers

 

 

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tweckyspat

Hideous memories of trying to exercise railhead ops at Micheldever using RTE and SRTE. As the SSM would say ‘ Not an act of war’ Hard to imagine how it got through the procurement porcess (what where the two worse options discarded ???)

Topman
Topman

@ twecky

What was wrong with the RTE/STRE the whole idea or just the way it was implimented?

Obsvr

In the early 80s the sideways rail transfer system (from rail flat to truckbed) was regarded as the most significant logistic advance in decades. Basically it enabled a rail to road transfer point to be established anywhere there was a bit of flat ground by a railway line. IIRC about three truck-mounted systems were purchased off the shelf for use in Germany.

The other thing that BAS/RARS did was to demonstrate that the size of gun detachments was far to small to cope with the expected rate of ammo expenditure and the other tasks on a gun position (not forgetting most of the trial was under simulated NBC conditions). I believe the APRE psychologists opined that the only thing that kept the guys going was ‘battery honour’ in a ‘test’ situation.

tweckyspat

What was wrong with RTE/SRTE ?

The RTE was always VOR in my recollection
the SRTE took up a DROPS prime mover and seemed to take ages to get lined up /set up with the train

Neither bits of kit ever felt ‘ squaddie proofed’ unlike eg the RTCH
Many experienced fork lift operators claimed it was just as quick to fork 10 pallets off a railflat (even if only one side accessible) than to operate the RTE. especially in non-lab conditions

Topman
Topman

Ok thanks for that.

stephen duckworth

@TD
You mentioned “In the early eighties the Army conducted a Battle Attrition Study and Review of Ammunition Rates and Scales for high intensity combat operations” which led to the introduction of 1900 DROPS and then
“The fleet had gradually declined until it stood at about 1,700 a couple of years ago and since then numbers have reduced even further, about 500 or so now with very few trailers.”
Are we going to draft in commercial vehicles in time of need or are we just not anticipating the same consumption of material as in the early eighties. I am guessing there are a lot more commercial options out there now compared to the early eighties but to rely on an outside supply chain and work force is just asking for trouble.
PS very comprehensive series, you should be very pleased .

The Ginge
The Ginge

Great series TD, as not living a million miles from a large container port looking at container porn is always enjoyable.
As for monkey’s comments I think the idea is that if we were looking at a “worst case” effort then the use of civilian vehicle to move a lot of containers from European Ports would be the case. The thinking being that with the amount of Tarmac now layed across Europe and even in the more remote parts of Africa the need for heavy off road vehicles is only for the last few miles from an agreed drop off point to the tail end of the AS90 or Challenger etc.
So for example an awful lot of the armies low loader needs are now met by private companies because even with main roads blocked/bombed there are enough alternative routes using multi-axle rear steer trailers that the need to move across rough terrain is now a lot less than in the past. Even looking at the SRTE design above, this has been replicated and improved greatly in civilian use with most Haulage companies offering a service to lift and place on the ground, over walls etc 40 foot containers for filling up/unloading. So the amount and type of equipment available from Civilian sources is now a lot greater. And remember in a “max effort the Reds are coming” a simple angle grinder cuts a lot of the low hanging stuff off trucks; you just don’t do it when tomorrow it will be hauling a container to Tesco’s in Milton Keynes rather than setting up a container in a field for the Army. And the simple we’ll get it done attitude in the road haulage industry means it’s not such a big issue. The most successful of all the PFI initiatives has got to be the Armies Tank Transporter replacement purchase in this area.

So in all I think that’s the way as we only ever now intend to have on call 56 tanks, 20 odd AS90’s and support Warriors the need for a large all terrain logistics chain is a lot less than the support the BAOR would have needed.

tweckyspat

There was a significant local hired transport element even for Op Granby which acknowledged the shortfall in transport. Also simple expediency like loading 6 MLRS ULCs per rack instead of 4 made a huge difference but shagged the (then nearly new) DROPs fleet

PS the DROPS trailer was a product of desperation. Not many MMLC vehicles can tow a 15T trailer cross country and retain that mobility

stephen duckworth

Do we use anything like these on ‘smooth’ hard standing?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ampBqnBgTjE

stephen duckworth

@TD
Sorry will keep it zipped :-)
I just remember pushing (by hand) 20′ and 40′ units around a concrete hard standing (empty obviously) and loosing control as the run off camber became to steep and then ……. er wasn’t me !

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