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

Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
(508) 233-5340
amssb-opa@natick.army.mil

Date: March 22, 2001
No: 01-21

Collapsible Grappling Hook

NATICK, Mass. -- Used for clearing battlefield obstacles or gaining entry into a building, the collapsible grappling hook can perform double duty.

The hook is a lightweight, portable and reusable device that benefits combat engineers and infantrymen depending on the mission. The design collapses into a compact cube that's compatible with standard clothing and individual equipment.

Three collapsible hooks with varying shapes and operation were examined last year. Each performed well in testing and will be type-classified this year, according to Barry Hauck, project director for Product Manager-Soldier Equipment at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (Natick).

Until now, the Army had no sanctioned grappling hook, said Joe Jones, combat developer at Fort Benning, Ga. Grappling hooks were nothing more than unrefined thick pieces of metal, similar to rebar, bent into the desired shape. They were produced locally at the unit motor pool or purchased in town. Furthermore, the hook's breaking strength was uncertain.

"We wanted to find a grappling hook that cut weight and bulk by 50 percent over the standard grappling hook," Hauck said. "What they did have was heavy, and safety was also a concern."

Hauck, along with Harry Quinones, project engineer from Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, and Rochelle Bautista at the Infantry School in Fort Benning, worked together to identify and test existing commercial collapsible grappling hooks. Depending on the user, the hooks can clear obstacles, such as trip-wires for land mines or concertina wire, or assist with getting into and out of buildings. Load strength was set at a minimum of 1,608 pounds without bending.

"In (Military Operations in Urban Terrain), infantrymen may use the hook for entry and exit, but they're also looking at ladders. They may supplement each other or one may cancel the other," Hauck said.

Grappling hooks in some fashion have been used since the beginning of warfare, Jones said. Whether they are descending or ascending, soldiers can place or toss the grappling hook onto a roof, through a window or anywhere that catches and secures itself to give the necessary support.

"The simplest and least bulky piece of equipment is a hook and rope. Some hooks are more than a foot in diameter, which is a reason we want it to be collapsible," Jones said. "We wanted to define the bottom line of acceptability for use around the Army. Our overriding consideration is the safety of the soldier."

For engineers, a pioneer hook is stored in their tool kit. Attached to a rope, the pioneer hook is thrown ahead and dragged along the surface to pull trip-wires from a safe distance. The new collapsible hook was intended to bring greater versatility in clearing obstacles, but the effort did not lead to an acceptable capability, Jones said. They will retain the pioneer hook.

Soldiers gave their product opinions after testing, which were sent to the companies who make changes at their discretion.

"The focus of the program is to get out to the soldiers quality equipment quickly. It gives us an opportunity to take commercial items and see if they perform well enough for military use," Hauck said. "Sometimes, as with clearing trip-wires, the answer is that the item doesn't work."

One final user-evaluation is scheduled before the items become available for purchase under the common table of allowances. Commanders will be able to purchase the item with unit funds, but instead of taking a chance on an unproven or inappropriate item, they'll buy an item that meets or exceeds military standards.

Natick is part of the U.S. Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command (SBCCOM). For more information about SBCCOM or the Soldier Systems Center (Natick), please visit our web site at http://www.sbccom.army.mil.

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