Maintenance shelter thrives since Gulf War inception
Commonly called “clamshells,” the Large Area Maintenance Shelters (LAMS) have seen varied and increasing action—including support of Operation Enduring Freedom—since its procurement for Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
The shelter was originally developed and has been managed since 1992 by the 21st Century Fabric Structures Group at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (Natick) to cover maintenance crews working on Army helicopters and armored vehicles.
“They needed shelter quick to get them out of the sand,” said Robert Abbruzzese, an equipment specialist and LAMS cell leader, recalling the product’s beginning. “The idea is to have a simple, quick-to-erect shelter. It’s been a huge success for Natick and (Army Materiel Command). It’s the shelter of choice for the aviation community right now.”
The LAMS are semi-mobile, modular platform systems that can deploy to support force projection and staging base operations anywhere around the world in 72 hours. Free of vertical support beams, they allow unobstructed movement inside a weatherproof shelter.
Clamshell Buildings in Ventura, Calif., manufactures the aviation LAMS while the vehicle LAMS are made by Canvas Specialty in Los Angeles. Of the two, the aviation LAMS are used more often since the Army has not been in a tank war since Desert Storm, said Abbruzzese.
The aircraft shelter consists of 10 bays or modules while the vehicle shelter uses four bays assembled from extruded, interchangeable aluminum beams and covered by sections of polyester vinyl. At each end is a full-width, full-height clamshell-type door for drive-through access. They have a pre-assembled wiring harness for electricity, overhead lights, two fans for ventilation and can function in blackout conditions. Vehicle LAMS are 10 feet narrower and also have two sidewall doors.
Setup with material-handling equipment, such as forklifts, is optional although commonly used, Abbruzzese said. The LAMS are regularly erected with the help of a technical assistance team from Natick. Setup takes a crew of 10 anywhere from five to 12 days, and they can be placed on almost any open area, but a smooth concrete or asphalt surface is sought after.
Improvements through the years include an electric-powered winch instead of a hand crank to raise and lower the clamshell doors, a more durable covering that lasts up to seven years and redesigned crating that’s enabled the Army to reduce the number of ISO shipping containers from eight to two.
Not type-classified, a total of 69 shelters are in the Army war reserve today, according to Abbruzzese. Bringing them together was a large task for the Structures Group because many LAMS components were in disarray after Desert Storm. Pieces were left behind or returned to a U.S. base that was closed under a round of Base Realignment and Closure, further scattering the components.
Since Desert Storm, the LAMS have been or currently are being used for peacekeeping, training and humanitarian missions in the Balkans, Hungary, Italy and Puerto Rico. They were deployed to Honduras for Hurricane Mitch relief support and to Jackson, Tenn., when the Tennessee Army National Guard needed temporary shelter while fixing a tornado-destroyed hangar.
Product Manager-Comanche in Fort Rucker, Ala., is requesting the shelters while their hangars are being renovated.
The most memorable use of the LAMS was at Rocky Mountain Arsenal in Denver, Colo., according to Abbruzzese. The technical assistance team assembled two shelters together over a scrap pile to assist with the removal of sarin-gas-filled bomblets in December 2000. The shelter was equipped with a specially designed air filtration system to provide containment and treatment of air inside.
“That was probably our biggest, highest-profile use of the shelters for a non-war mission,” he said.
Demand continues to be intense for LAMS, and his group is looking to assemble more of them from parts stored at Sierra Army Depot in Herlong, Calif., as stocked supplies diminish.
“We’re getting tons of requests,” he said. “Obviously, they like it. Until the (Wide Span Air Beam Shelter) comes on line, it’s the only thing out there.”