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SSC-Natick Press Release

U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01760-5012

Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
(508) 233-5340

Date: February 1, 2005
No: 05-04

Expeditionary kitchen expands

NATICK, Mass. -- "A" rations are taking the "S" out of SPEK.

The Single Pallet Expeditionary Kitchen (SPEK), designed in 2002 by the Systems Equipment and Engineering Team at the Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate, located at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center here, has grown to cook the top choice in field feeding options, A rations.

Initially capable of preparing heat and serve meals, the kitchen satisfies the Air Force requirement for a highly mobile, temporary kitchen on deployments to remote, undeveloped locations. Although the SPEK can still fit onto one C-130, 463L load pallet, extra equipment to prepare A-ration meals may eventually mean packing a second pallet for transit.

"We'll have the ability to serve fresh foods and extend deployment of the system," said Ken Ryan, project officer. "By expanding the equipment, we're expanding the capacity and don't have to rush to set up a bare base kitchen. It's going to evolve into a new kitchen, and we're going to have to come up with a new acronym."

An Expandable Small Air Mobile Shelter is another possible air or ground transportation platform to contain a larger version of the kitchen, according to Ryan. Regardless of how it travels, the items are easy to unpack, set up and operate, and then pack up for its next location.

With the changes, the kitchen can feed as many as 550 airmen, instead of 300 with the original SPEK, in a two-hour period twice a day for up to 45 days for heat and serve, and A rations. A user-test Nov. 6-7 with the Massachusetts National Guard 104th Fighter Wing in Westfield during its "Thunder Wart" exercise demonstrated how well it works.

More than 550 airmen, including members of the Army's 226th Division Aviation Support Battalion, were fed in a two-and-a-half hour period, a remarkable feat because food personnel were trained that morning and warfighters had a choice of three entrees, two starches and two vegetables, said retired Navy Master Chief Louis Jamieson, an equipment specialist.

The SPEK carries everything except fuel, water and rations. A TEMPER or similar tent with interior lighting provides shelter for the cooking and serving equipment. The upgraded SPEK adds a 3-kilowatt generator to the 2-kilowatt generator to handle increased electrical demand, but a Spider temporary power distribution system can be used if higher-capacity power is available on-site, Ryan said.

Food storage and beverage containers, hand-washing stations, tables and the Multi Ration Heater-used for heat and serve tray rations and No. 10 food service cans-are the same, but the kitchen's sanitation center has been revised and flooring replaced.

Three lines were modified into a single in-line steam manifold that feeds water to three spargers independently controlled in each well for rinsing, washing and sanitizing for the sanitation center. A hose also provides hot water for coffee and reconstituted foods, such as mashed potatoes, while another spray hose can rinse kitchen utensils.

"Now the sanitation package is much more robust. There are fewer parts, less maintenance, and it decreased the amount of space it takes up," said Rob DiLalla, a mechanical engineer.

Flooring has been upgraded with a mat system manufactured by Soloco LLC. Key advantages are a non-skid rubberized surface with built-in drains, reduced weight, impact absorption and smooth edges, according to Anthony Cellucci, an engineering technician.

"The other flooring was brittle, it stained easily, was slick, had sharp edges and had snaps that tended to break when assembling the section together," he said.

New components that enable fresh rations to be prepared are the griddle, convection oven and a pressureless steamer.

Along with the sanitation center, each is connected to its own interchangeable burner base fed on common battlefield fuel in a closed system that yields no fumes or open flames, Ryan said. Temperature for each appliance is adjustable by a thermostat.

"Thermostatic controls are the biggest difference in any field kitchen," Jamieson said. "You get even cooking and heat distribution. You would have to guess the temperature otherwise."

He described the cooking uniformity of the griddle designed and soon-to-be patented by the team as "phenomenal," with no swings in surface temperature as hamburgers, pancakes or any other griddle-cooked foods are moved or turned.

Uniform baking is also heralded with the natural convection oven. Ryan said the design is unusual because it's a commercial product adapted to a burner, something not normally seen in the field.

The SPEK comes with a spare parts kit for quick repairs and replacements for the major components, and the entire platform can be arranged as desired by the cooks.

Air Force National Guard units are the first to see the redesigned SPEK, but Ryan said the kitchen could become valuable for other military services.

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This page last updated on 23 January 2004.