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New cargo pallet will save U.S. military $1.3 million

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SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (USTCNS) --- A large shipment of merchandise sits near a loading dock behind the United States Transportation Command on Scott Air Force Base, Ill. What makes this shipment different from those normally received by government agencies around the world every day is that shipment appears to be piled on a pallet which is also, on a pallet.

Another federal faux pas?

No, this pallet sandwich is really a new cost-saving shipping system developed for USTRANSCOM, the command responsible for moving all things military.

Called the Associate Intermodal Platform (AIP), the system consists of an 82-inch by 102-inch by 8-inch rectangle of a linear low density hexane copolymer which resembles a large, black waffle. Cargo is loaded and tied down on the AIP and then the whole package is loaded onto the familiar, silver 463L pallet. The resulting package is then ready to load for shipment.

Once in theater, the AIP, with cargo and netting attached, is off-loaded and sent to the final destination, while the 463L remains. The AIP can also be used to transport cargo with ISO containers, or alone.

According to USTRANSCOM Transportation Specialist David Blackford, this apparent redundancy was deemed necessary by transportation officials. “Because of combatant command requirements during contingencies and relief efforts, we send our 463L pallets and nets to the final destination (factory to foxhole),” Blackford said. “The 463L equipment either doesn’t get returned to the Defense Transportation System, or personnel use them for purposes not intended and, therefore, they get damaged.”

The silver slabs may make superb floors for tents in the field, but this type of misdirection of pallets can add up to a huge expense for the government.

“The 463L pallet and net system cost $1,700 per set and the (proposed) cost of the AIP system is $400,” Blackford said. “This equates to a $1.3 million cost avoidance per 1,000 pallets sent to the theater. We send several thousand pallets to theater per month. We created the AIP to keep the 463L assets in the DTS [Defense Transportation System] and still meet the COCOM requirements for unitized cargo loads.”

While the current prototypes of the AIP system cost $970 each, the actual production cost will be $400 for the system which has been in development for more than two years.

“We birthed the concept in October 2003,” Blackford said. “We developed the requirements document, applied for Transportation Technology funds, wrote the statement of work and awarded the contract to Thermodynamics in June 2005.

“We received our first 120 AIP pallet and net sets at the end of September 2005,” Blackford added. “We are currently developing the plan to operationally test the AIP at the Defense Distribution Depot Red River in Texarkana (Texas).”

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