August 9, 2012: An Israeli firm has come up with yet another variation on the sandbag. For several centuries troops have used sand or earth filled bags small enough to be moved by one man and shaped to be stacked in a protective wall. In the last few decades there have been several variations on the sandbag but the latest one, recently adopted by the Israeli Army, enables a miniature fort to be quickly built (within four hours) without the use of special heavy equipment (like a front end loader or forklift). The new system uses large collapsible one meter mesh cubes, each weighing 20 kg (44 pounds). Men can carry these, set them up, and then shovel in sand or earth. There are special panels for placing sand filled cubes on the roof. All this enables a bullet and RPG proof fort to be erected quickly. The boxes can be emptied and put back on vehicles even more quickly.
Quickly built forts proved their worth in Iraq. There the HESCO barrier, a collapsible wire mesh container with a heavy duty plastic liner, provided protection from large truck bombs. Once the HESCO containers were opened up a front end loader was used to fill it with sand (dirt or gravel). A wall of HESCO barriers was nearly as good as concrete blocks. Originally designed for use on beaches and marshes for erosion and flood control, the "HESCO Bastion", as it is officially known, quickly became a popular security device even before September 11, 2001. The device is named after the company that developed it over a decade ago, a British firm called HESCO.
For the military the HESCO barrier was a big improvement on the sandbag. The labor saving angle is very popular with the troops. Before the HESCO barriers, troops filled sandbags, which was slow. One soldier could fill about 20 sandbags an hour. Troops using HESCO barriers and a front end loader can do ten times the work of troops using sandbags. The HESCO barriers come in a variety of sizes designed for military work. There was also a special "bunker kit" for building bunkers. Most of the barrier units could be stacked. The barriers were shipped collapsed and very compact. You quickly pull them open and fill with sand or dirt. Filled with sand, 600mm (24 inches) of barrier thickness will stop rifle bullets and shell fragments. It takes 1.5 meters (five feet) of thickness to prevent penetration by an RPG round (although these usually do not hit at the right angle to need that much thickness but just explode creating a lot of fragments). About 1.2 meters (four feet) of thickness will protect against most car bombs. The HESCO barriers have prevented thousands of casualties among troops in Iraq (and now Afghanistan) and done wonders for morale.