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High-Tech Improvisations Save Lives in Iraq

July 1st, 2008:


The deadliest weapon in Iraq isn't the most technically sophisticated. Instead, it's those infamous low-tech IEDs (improvised explosive devices) hidden to roadside garbage that are exacting a terrible toll: more than 50 percent of U.S. troop casualties.

The American military first responded by ordering nearly 4,000 new armored trucks from a South Carolina company that has cleverly adapted its V-shaped speedboat hulls into a steel truck under belly that deflects shock waves and shrapnel. But the custom built new trucks have only begun to arrive in the field at the rate of 100 a month.

Meanwhile, an adaptive enemy is producing even more powerful and deadlier roadside bombs. What to do? Take a page out of the insurgent playbook; improvise. Inspired by an idea that came from former U.S. military personnel working for Buffalo Turbine, the Springville, New York - manufacturer of KOHLER-powered debris blowers, the Army's problem-solving Rapid Equipping Force has mounted armored versions of industrial debris blowers on the front bumper of convoy-leading trucks.

"Our Cyclone KB3 blows a broad, 180-mph jet of air to expose roadside explosives" says Buffalo Turbine General Manager Paul Syracuse. "The military now has more than 100 Cyclones in use in Iraq and more are on the way."

Stateside, the KOHLER-powered Buffalo Turbine Cyclone KB3 debris blowers are typically used to clear streets and racetracks or by parks as the ultimate debris blowers. "They're rock solid, world class blowers and sprayers," says Tom Tieman, Vice President, Pitt Auto Electric Company, the Pennsylvania-based KOHLER engine distributor serving Buffalo Turbine. "They've also been used at the last eight Super Bowls, and they're an official licensed product of the PGA Tour. But I Iraq, these blowers are literally saving lives!" In two years of use, the machines have exposed or detonated dozens of roadside bombs - no soldiers have been killed while using the debris blowers.

So far, the only "casualties" have been those Cyclones damaged by bombs that they trigger. In a recent incident, a Cyclone was hit by shrapnel, but the following day, after U.S. engineers installed a new fuel tank, the Buffalo Turbine was ready to lead another convoy.

The U.S. military also utilizes thousands of KOHLER towable generators throughout Iraq, but the company takes special pride in the KOHLER-powered Cyclone. "This success story is a result of teamwork among Buffalo Turbine, Pitt Auto and Kohler Engines," says Rich Koehl, director of marketing and quality at Kohler Engines. "Taking a product designed for a consumer or commercial application and using it to protect our troops is a great example of American ingenuity. In this case the KOHLER engines powering the Cyclones are largely off-the-shelf-the Army just adds armor. But Kohler is always ready to help the military develop special applications."

The KOHLER-powered Cyclones are a great example of the dynamics of technology transfer. While many times technology trickles down from the military or NASA - GPS devices, for example-recently commercial technology has been bubbling up to the military in what Koehl calls the "NASA effect"

"It's satisfying to be supporting our troops in such a direct way. Kohler Engines is proud to play a part in protecting the brave men and women in our military."

Written By: Stephanie Dlugopolski,
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