February 27, 2013 -- By Dan Broadstreet, NSWC PCD Public Affairs
The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division’s (NSWC PCD) Buffalo Capability Insertion Team has developed modular rifle rack kits for the U.S. Marine Corps’ Buffalo Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles and plans to begin delivery of the kits by February of 2013.
Weighing over 50,000 pounds, the Buffalo is the largest of the U.S. MRAP vehicles. It is used by Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Combat Engineers as a key capability for Route Clearance Patrols.
The Marine Corps Systems Command Assistant Program Manager, Albert Shaw, for the Cat III Buffalo MRAP, described the new racks designed by NSWC PCD as a success.
“These new rifle racks will definitely keep our Marines safer because they were designed with a combat loaded Marine in mind,” Shaw said. “The location, overall improved functionality, and ease of use makes this a significant improvement over the old racks.”
NSWC PCD’s Buffalo Capability Insertion Team Task Lead for the project, Tim Adams, agreed with Shaw given the encroachment problems associated with the older rifle racks.
“The placement of the original weapons stowage simply wasn’t designed as efficiently as our newer modular rifle racks from a human factors perspective,” Adams said. “The older racks’ placement within the vehicles tended to encroach on the Marines’ seating space and once the weapons were stowed this became even more of a problem.”
Adams said the challenge of designing new rifle racks with a smaller footprint actually became an advantage for developing a more efficient system.
“The MRAPs are manufactured with a rifle rack system where the racks are already mounted to the hull walls. So we designed a modular kit comprised of three rifle racks, each capable of holding two weapons to accommodate the vehicles’ capacity of six passenger per MRAP,” Adams said.
Adams said that because the new rack’s design places emphasis on keeping its footprint small, it not only allows more space for personnel in case the need arises for urgent ingress or egress from the vehicle, but it also is extremely adjustable to older as well as newer variants of the Buffalo MRAPs.
“We’ve developed various brackets and mounting kits to accommodate the different variants of Buffalo MRAPs. There are also a variety of weapons systems these racks are capable of holding – a good number of weapons based off the design,” Adams said. “This system’s innate modularity also gives us the capability to spread the racks throughout the vehicle’s cabin so we don’t have to consolidate them in one place.”
Adams said a priority of designing the new rifle racks was consideration of its human factor impacts.
“You’ve got to realize these Marines are wearing a tremendous amount of gear, which is why it was important to give the system a small footprint, but also to design it so the weapons are easily accessible. In addition, the kits are designed so Marines can more easily put their guns in a rack close to where they’re seated and latch it down tightly so they’re free to do other things while in transit.”
Adams said the simplicity of the rack’s design is really what lends to its effectiveness as well as cost efficiency.
“In case of an emergency situation or a vehicle rollover, these Marines have to be able to access their weapons rapidly and easily. Because of the way we’ve designed the mounts at the base of the system and the way we’ve used a commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) strap and buckle concept, these warfighters can stow their weapons with one hand and access them with just their thumb and a finger,” Adams said. “So, in the event of a rollover, if you’re disoriented, or even during periods of limited visibility, the Marine can easily reach out, feel and find the strap and buckle, and unclasp it with just a forefinger and thumb and the weapon will come right out .”
Adams said the clasping mechanism is actually a COTS item very likely familiar to much of the public.
“Who would have thought that the nylon straps and buckles used in so much hiking gear, the same ones many pet owners are familiar with that are used on dog harnesses, would have proven so rugged and effective for strapping in military rifles,” Adams said, emphasizing that such a common COTS item also added to the rifle rack’s cost efficiency benefitting not just the warfighter, but the American taxpayers as well.
“We’ve done very thorough testing with this design and these rifle racks have proven incredibly rugged and effective,” Adams said. “I’m convinced this system is an excellent candidate for a variety of different military vehicles. It’s very adaptable with a fairly small footprint and we’ve shown it can be installed quite easily in several vehicles with similar characteristics.”