Saturday, May 1, 2010

US Army To Buy Backscatter Trailers to Monitor Checkpoints in Afghanistan

The US Marine Corps has been using them in Afghanistan for years. And now the US Army wants to get its hands on some. Some what? You may ask. Why backscatter van (BV) military trailers, of course. 

BV military trailers use backscatter x-ray technology to peer into vehicles and containers that enter and exist military checkpoints. The technology can detect improvised explosive devices (IEDs), people, and plastic weapons, among other things. The backscatter x-ray technology is similar to the full body scanners now being deployed by the US Transportation Security Administration at US airports.

American Science and Engineering (AS&E) in Billerica, MA supplies the US military with both the backscatter van, which houses the technology in an inconspicuous delivery van, and the BV military trailer designed to traverse rugged terrain… 

The Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) said it had an “urgent” need for the BV military trailers for the rough terrain of Afghanistan and requested to bypass the normal competitive bidding procedures to obtained them. After receiving approval, the command on April 22/10 placed an $48.8 million order for 37 BV military trailers to monitor checkpoints in Afghanistan.

In its justification [pdf] for bypassing the normal acquisition process, RDECOM said:
“The BV Military Trailer is a highly technical and complex system utilizing a Backscatter and Penetrating X-ray source to penetrate vehicles and cargo to identify the presence of both organic (personnel and bulk explosives) and inorganic (weapons and artillery shells) threats. The Army currently has no BV Military Trailers deployed in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF). The US Marine Corps currently has thirty-four (34) systems and have found them to be effective in identifying Vehicular-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIEDs)....Based upon terrain, road trafficability and weather conditions in Afghanistan, a militarized, mobile (towed) system capable of operating in extreme climate conditions is required….AS&E is currently the only manufacturer who can provide a ruggedized trailer mounted system capable of operating in the required environment using both Backscatter and penetrating X-ray with delivery of 10 initial systems within 60 days of contract award due to having them presently available in the warehouse.”

AS&E will perform the work at its Billerica, MA facility, with an estimated completion date of Jan 17/11. RDECOM’s Natick Contracting Division in Orlando, FL manages the contract (W911QY-10-C-0078).

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