Heil, US Army hook up again
Jun 1, 2002 12:00 PM, By Rick Weber
HEIL Trailer International and the US Army's Tank Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) are a team once again.
Last November, TACOM awarded Heil a five-year contract to build 5,000-gallon stainless steel semi trailers in two configurations — the M967 bulk-fuel transport and the M969 refueler. Now comes the fun part: testing prototypes and ramping up production.
Five prototype trailers are in Yuma, Arizona, for 90 days of road testing to be completed in August. Production is tentatively slated to begin in September, with the intention of producing 60 units a month starting early next year at Heil's facility in Fort Worth, Texas, and staying at that level of production until 750 units are completed.
Scott Davidson, systems acquisitions manager for TACOM, says that if the tests go as planned, the Army plans on increasing the quantity of units produced in succeeding years of the contract.
“Heil's a good fit for us because they meet the requirements of the contract,” Davidson says. “It was the best-value contract. They had good past performance. They're using good commonality of parts that were already in the Army's inventory. They come in with a sharp pencil. That's really what the driving force was. They've had a lot of success in the commercial industry.
“Because of the new technology in the past five years, because a lot of old tankers are going away from the Army's inventory, we're bringing new units into the Army's structure, and we have new requirements. We put them together and went out and got the latest technology from the commercial industry.”
Heil has a long and successful history of supplying equipment to the military.
In the early 1900s, Heil furnished truck-mount fuel tankers for a new Army weapon — the airplane. Over the first half of the 20th century, Heil supplied tankers, refuelers, and other welded products to the government. During World War II, the company manufactured fuel transports, armored tank weldments, bomb casings, and a multitude of other military supplies.
During the Vietnam War, Heil manufactured several thousand M131 fuel transports — the predecessor of the current M967/969 model — for the Army and Marine Corps.
Heil exited the military realm during the 1980s to focus on commercial products, especially aluminum tanks, and the Heil Challenger petroleum transport and Super Jet and Super Flo model dry bulk transports gained worldwide acceptance during the ensuing decade. After being absent from the steel tank market for several years, Heil returned in 1997.
The new tank trailers have a similar appearance to the M131s, but are constructed to DOT406 code and have Civacon overfill protection and vapor recovery, a brake interlock, Betts Tiona domelid, Truck-Lite LED lighting, Meritor axles with antilock braking, Hutch spring suspension, and hub-piloted steel disc wheels. The single-compartment tank is fabricated from 304 stainless steel. Tare weight for the trailer is approximately 17,000 pounds, but the unit has been built to meet the military's performance needs for severe service, transportability, and corrosion resistance.
Jack Taubert, Heil's project manager, says this is one of the largest military orders the company has ever had.
The biggest departure from the commercial part of Heil's business will come in the paint booth in the form of camouflage. It requires two stages: painting the entire unit in olive drab near the midpoint of the assembly process; and then, after assembly, bringing the units back to the shop to apply the black and brown camouflage pattern.
“We've got a pattern,” Taubert says. “After our painters get into it for a couple of weeks, they'll probably just do it by memory in freehand and repeat that pattern over and over.”
The tanks require a special paint process called Chemical Agent Resistant Coating (CARC), which provides surfaces that are easily and effectively decontaminated after exposure to liquid chemical agents. The CARC system contains solvents and isocyanate (HDI), and requires carefully orchestrated protective equipment and engineering controls.
There are three types of coatings in the CARC system: an epoxy polyamide primer, an aliphatic polyurethane paint (PUP), and an epoxy polyamide enamel. Each of the coatings is supplied as a two-component system. When the two components are combined, a terminal reaction begins which makes an impermeable coating.
The surfaces to be coated with CARC must sometimes be stripped. After stripping, the surface must be cleaned of all oils, grease, and water. When the item is ready for coating, the two components are mixed and allowed to stand for a prescribed period. In order to be effective, the mixture must then be applied within a given time period known as its “pot life.”
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