Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tactical containers for strategic miltiary logistics

In "Sustainment from the Deep Sea" (US Navy Institute Magazine, July 2008 Vol. 34/7/1,265 ) Lieutenant Colonel James C. Bates advocates "tactical containers" for military strategic sea lift. Eight of these smaller containers would fit in one ISO standard 20 foot container.

The US military is already developing "Joint Modular Intermodal Containers" (JMIC) which are part of the Joint Modular Intermodal Distribution System (JMIDS):

JMIDS JMIC Features - Container
Outside dimensions – 51.75”L X 43.75”W X 43”H
Stacking Height – 40.75”
Inside dimension – 48.75”L X 40.75”W X 33.18”H Collapsed Height – 15.18”
Collapsed Stacking Height – 13.56”
Tare Weight – 317 - 329 lbs
Cover weight – 36.75 lbs
Two removable side panels (26.5 lb ea)
Assemble w/o tools
Collapsed and secured w/o banding
3000 lb max gross weight ...

But as Bates points out the JMIC is designed to be collapsible and so will be less able to be stacked and less weatherproof. Essentially the JMIC is intended to be transported inside something else, such as an ISO container or an aircraft, not left outside on its own. His solution is to make a sturdier, bigger, weatherproof box about 96 x 60 x 48 inches.

Garrett Container Systems, Inc. offer JMICs:

Part# 7516510
NSN: 8145-01-551-5311
(Aluminum finish)
NSN: 8145-01-564-5795 (Tan color)
NSN: 8145-01-564-5802 (Green color)

Joint Modular Intermodal Container (JMIC) is the near future solution to the standardization of shipping containers functional for all branches of the US Military

JMIC is manufactured in four styles for mission-based shipping requirements.

  • JMIC
  • JMIC Light
  • JMIC Rack
  • JMIC Double ...
While pointing out the benefits of using commercial standards for military transporting of containerised goods, Bates fails to mention that there are civilian standards for small containers. These are designed to fit in ISO containers, trucks and aircraft. In selecting a size for a small military container, it would be a good idea to first look at these standards.

If the JMIC is widely adopted by the military, it might be sensible to take up Bates idea, but in a smaller form: a non collapsible, weatherproof, stack able version of the JMIC. Such a Tactical JMIC (TJMIC) container would have the advantage of being compatible with the handling systems of the JMIDS. The TJMIC could be carried in a truck, ship or aircraft as easily as a JMIC, but would weigh more and could not be collapsed for transport empty.

The TJMIC would be simpler and therefore much cheaper to make than JMIC and could be considered semi-disposable, as is the case for many ISO containers in military use. The cost of shipping back empty containers, even when they can be collapsed, is not worth the effort in may situations. Instead the containers could be used as building blocks for fortifications, when filled with sand, and for storage either indoors or outdoors. In addition very large buildings could be built by stacking TJMICs. This would be useful for the construction of semi-permanent bases, where the containers the supplies and equipment were delivered in would be used to build the base. This would exploit the techniques developed for "shipping container architecture".

There is a detailed thesis on "The joint modular intermodal container : is this the future of naval logistics?" by Mark Johnson, at MIT. He discusses the benefits of various containerisation systems and compatibility with ISO. He concludes such systems do offer benefits, but will require inter-branch compatibility. That is it is not so much achieving compatibility with commercial systems which is the problem, but between the US Army, Navy and Air Force.

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