As I started this post, I was listening to a track from the soundtrack for the motion picture Apollo 13. As you may recall, that film opened with a recreation of the tragic Apollo 1 (204) fire in the spacecraft which killed astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White II, and Roger Chaffee. One of the contributing factors to the deaths was the fact that the hatch on the command module took at least sixty seconds to open even in optimum conditions. There simply wasn’t enough time for the astronauts to escape the capsule before they were overcome by fumes.
One of the many corrections made to the Apollo program in the aftermath of the accident was a new command module hatch on Block II spacecraft which could be opened much more quickly in emergency conditions.
With that in mind, note this story in the Minneapolis-St. Paul STrib: Windshield for Humvees offers escape
Ninety U.S. soldiers have died and 250 have been injured in Iraq as a result of combat vehicle rollovers. Fourteen of the 90 deaths were drownings after the heavy vehicles were attacked and flipped into water where the escape doors were pinned or jammed shut.
The Army requested ideas from contractors throughout the nation last year to address the problem. The Army currently operates 30,000 armored Humvees and 40,000 unarmored Humvees.
BAE spent seven months and $500,000 developing its solution, then presented their prototype to the Army for testing earlier this month.
BAE Systems’ solution, called the Vehicle Emergency Escape (VEE) Window, looks good:
The prototype windshield, which they said can be installed in the field in one hour, is expected to give soldiers one more means of escaping quickly from a Humvee. Under the patented design, the windshield can be removed in less than five seconds…
In August, BAE engineer Michael Hafften began designing a latching mechanism that could transform the armored Humvee’s bulletproof windshield into a new escape path. Hafften designed two latch pins that release the windshield with a simple quarter-turn. Soldiers then push the windshield out. The system, which doesn’t compromise the security of the windshield, has been shared with Humvee maker Armor Holdings, BAE officials said.
I think we can all agree that the Humvee isn’t the right solution for most of the situations our troops are finding themselves in these days, and that a better vehicle should be selected sooner rather than later. In the meantime, though, and since the Humvee will remain a mainstay for years to come regardless of any new vehicles, we need to do what we can to keep up with an evolving battlefield.
The first VEE Windows could by ready by this summer. As of now, it doesn’t appear that anyone else has come forward with a design. See a video at BAE’s site.
UPDATE: Cross-posted to Defense Tech. I’ll be posting there once or twice a week for the time being.