Relocatable aircraft hangars: The value of rapidly deployable shelters in war-zones

  • Guest Blog
  • 6 years ago

Relocatable buildings are a cost effective solution for many crisis situations. With examples seen across the world in war-zones, disaster areas and refugee scenarios, sustainable buildings are now a common sight. They offer increased flexibility, less waste, less environmental impact and take less time to set up.

In war-zones, relocatable aircraft hangars are providing the Ministry of Defence (MoD) much-needed support. Made from lightweight aluminium and extremely tough PVC outer fabric, the structures can be quickly erected and then disassembled and moved on to suit the demands of ever-changing missions.

Rubb Buildings Ltd is a North East of England based business that specialises in deployable fabric structures. They began their development in 1997 and over the years have become a leading supplier of deployable shelters to the military. Their expertise sees them produce a range of Expeditionary Forces Aircraft Shelter Systems (EFASS), which are available in three different sizes with various door options. These buildings can be configured to accommodate different vehicles, from fixed wing aircraft to land vehicles. They can also be packed away into 20ft ISO containers for easy transport, making them highly attractive to military forces around the world.

In Action

A recent example of a hangar in action was a model produced for use by the MoD as part of Operation Herrick in Kandahar, Afghanistan. With a 20.4m span, the EFASS featured two trident doors at each gable end that were complete with electric packs. The entire structure packed into a 20ft ISO container that weighed 12,000kg. Assembled in 10 hours by a team of eight, the shelter was rapidly deployable and used to support the MoD’s operations in Afghanistan.

The specifications that make the technology so attractive to military forces across the world are obvious, from the relative lightweight portability of the shelters to their ease of assembly. A full range of key selling points shows just how useful they are:

  • Components can be unpacked and assembled by teams of personnel without the need for an additional mechanical plant and then easily disassembled and repacked for future use.
  • The entire EFASS range fits into 20ft ISO containers.
  • Specialist hangar doors are available, including Heli-Doors, Trident doors and Roller Shutters.
  • Multiple span options: 11.1m (36ft), 20.4m (67ft), 25m (82ft)
  • Roof mounted crane provides innovative and optimal operation capability
  • Ultra robust – can withstand wind and snow loads up to UK defence standards: Ve40m per second (wind speed) and 100kg per m² (snow load.) The fabric is also fire retardant and easily repairable.

The EFASS hangars are made with an aluminium framework. These have been designed in order to keep weight to a minimum whilst retaining maximum strength. Constructed with 6082 T6 structural aluminium, the material is anodised black and galvanised against corrosion. The framework is robust and designed to handle multiple erections in difficult environments.

The most vital aspect of the design is the PVC covering membrane, which forms the barrier between the outer environment and the interior of the hangars. The PVC used by Rubb is exceptionally tough. It has been proven to last over 30 years, with a high tensile strength, flame retardancy and self-extinguishing capabilities.  The material is tested vigorously to prove its strength, with tests for elongation, tearing strength, bursting strength, coating adhesion and resistance to flexing.

As well as the frame and PVC covering, Rubb has developed a roof mounted crane system. Designed in response to military requests for a lifting facility that could dismantle and rebuild a Chinook helicopter, the crane system is remote controlled and can handle weights from 1000kg to 2000kg depending on which hangar system it’s attached to. The crane features a double girder system that has an articulated suspension motorised bridge and hoist. This means it provides powered movement in all directions, presenting a client with the ability to maintain vehicles and aircraft without an additional plant within the hangar.

Development Timeline

The EFASS system is an industry-leading example of a design that fulfils a distinct need. Rubb began developing the system as early as 1997 to explore rapid-fire deployable hangar solutions. From there, the company, and the design of the hangars, has been improved. After winning multiple military contracts, Rubb has been involved in leading the design of relocatable aircraft hangars, from designing 52 20m shelters to providing 25 x 100m hangars for military warehouses in Afghanistan.

  • 1997-1999  –  Rubb completes R&D into rapid deployable hangar solutions
  • 2001-2002  –  RAF contract awarded for 52 20.4m span hangars developed for Tornado aircraft storage
  • 2002-2004  –  Rubb develop new 25m span hangars
  • 2003  –  Roof mounted crane technology begins development. Different models of shelters deployed in Iraq War
  • 2004  –  onwards First 25m variants purchased for use with Chinook and Merlin Aircraft. Clients now include US, UK and Canadian military
  • 2010  –  R&D to develop 11.1m land vehicle hangar
  • 2011  –  UK MoD deploys largest EFASS to date (25m x 100m) to Afghanistan
  • Rubb develops new sunshade design bought by the UK’s MoD
  • 2012  –  System used by UK military at RAF Northolt for Operation Olympic Guardian
  • The first commercial Rubb 11.1m sunshade was successfully delivered to house the helicopter operations of Rio Tinto
  • 2013  –  Rubb provides three 23.4m x 36m steel and aluminium hybrid EFASS helicopter maintenance hangars to Horizon Flight Academy
  • 2013 to date  –  EFASS projects continue to grow and expand, with both commercial and military contracts in place
The future of deployable shelters

While the war in Afghanistan is now over, there is still a constant need for relocatable shelters in all manner of scenarios. Recent developments have seen hybrid helicopter maintenance structures being assembled for the Horizon Flight Academy and also UAV POD development. As the needs of clients change, Rubb has shifted their design focus and adapted as required. From aircraft hangers to military warehouses, producing portable, storable shelters has never been so achievable.