The Iceman Cometh

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A “hot LZ” refers to a hot landing zone, where incoming choppers have to watch out for unfriendly fire. But lately, it seems it also means pretty much wherever the U.S. wages war: the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have been fought in exceedingly warm nations, where summertime temperatures routinely top 100 degrees.

That led to tens of thousands of shrink-wrapped pallets of bottled water being air-lifted into remote forward operating bases, where potable water didn’t exist.

But what good is such water if it’s…hot?

That’s why the Army is exploring what it calls “organic” ice-making machines for those FOBs. Ice can be used to cool water and foodstuffs, not to mention humans.

The Army’s Natick Soldier Systems Center “is interested in understanding the currently available capabilities that could enhance the bagged ice need sustainability of remote operating bases engaged in combat operations,” the service says in a new solicitation seeking more information on the feasibility of such gear.

It all goes back to being, frankly, where you are not wanted, as the solicitation makes clear:

The remote locations of base camps create significant challenges for logistics support of combat operations, in particular bagged ice production. These base camps are heavily dependent on large, long-distance truck convoys whose cargo is dominated by water and bulk fuel. Convoy routes through unsecured areas are frequently hazardous, and transport is always expensive. PM FSS [Project Manager Force Sustainment Systems] is in the process of initiating dramatic steps toward rapidly improving the logistics support required to establish and operate base camps. Information received from this RFI may be used to help identify technical solutions suitable for rapidly enhancing ice making capability at base camp operations.

The Army wants refrigeration gear that can produce 3,600 pounds – nearly two tons – of ice per day. That should be enough to support 900 troops. “The current concepts of use for these Ice Making Systems will be for extended periods of time are to replace convoy provided ice supply in operational theaters when deployments,” the Army says, in its unique contractly style. “Primary functional uses of these systems will be as ice production systems to automatically produce the ice and deliver in sealed bag.”

Here’s some of what the Army is looking for:

1. Ice Making Systems to produce 3,600 lbs Threshold / 7,200 lbs Objective of cubed, tube or nugget ice and bag ice in 10lb to 20lb sealed bags and store 1,200lbs at one time within system.

2. Provide a system capable of operating in operational environments up to 130 deg F.

3. Each Ice Making System shall have an ease of access for operational use with minimal operator input for the automated ice production capability.

4. Ice Making Systems capable of producing ice with inlet water temperatures ranges from 40F to 90F.

5. Systems able to accept commercial power or from a standard military generator set.

6. These systems must be able to withstand the durability and structural load demands of military systems to include extreme environmental conditions and rough handling.

7. These systems must be FDA, NSF and UL compliant/approved.

8. Ideally these ice making systems shall have the following:

a. Ability to interface with existing base camps infrastructure.

b. Collapsible to minimize transportation cube, allowing for assembly, disassembly, and re-assembly multiple times, with a minimum 10 years useful life.

c. In the International Standards Organization (ISO) transportation mode the Ice System shall meet the requirements for the following: all modes of transport, (marine, highway, rail, and fixed and rotary wing aircraft), stacking requirements of marine modes and dimensional requirements. Ideal transportation size (cube) and weight would allow commercial aircraft to be used to transport assets.

d. Capable of withstanding rough handling and inclement weather conditions (including snow loading) encountered in all transportation and storage modes. The system must be able to withstand storage temperatures of minus sixty (60) degrees Fahrenheit (F) to plus one hundred forty (140) degrees F.

e. Capable of being handled by local material handling equipment (MHE) as well as container handling equipment.

f. External surfaces will be corrosion resistant and be capable of decontamination by standard military procedures.

g. Able to be erected on semi-prepared surfaces (cleared and basically level) and self-leveling is desired. Ice System may be placed on foot pads, concrete blocks, footers, beams/rails, head wall or its pedestals.

Frankly, all this could be avoided if the U.S. would limit itself to invading only nations with pre-existing 7-Elevens.

The Army is encouraging potential suppliers to respond promptly. “Information received may ultimately result in requests for equipment manufacturers to demonstrate their ice production capabilities at no cost or risk to the Government as early as May 2013,” it says.

Apparently, Iran can get pretty hot, too.