Military and Municipal Fire Services Share Equipment Designs

Issue 8 and Volume 18.

Alan M. Petrillo

Makers of fire apparatus and equipment are reporting more deals with various branches of United States military services, as well as other nongovernmental agencies-Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and others.

Very often, equipment is developed for the military, which then trickles down for use in municipal and industrial applications. And, the reverse also is true-the military purchases tried-and-true municipal firefighting apparatus and equipment because they meet its particular needs.

The Cobra EXM, along with other monitors in the Elkhart Brass EXM line, was developed as a result of work done with United States military services
(1) The Cobra EXM, along with other monitors in the Elkhart Brass
EXM line, was developed as a result of work done with United States
military services. (Photo courtesy of Elkhart Brass.)

Water Appliances

Rick Singer, vice president of North American sales for Akron Brass Company, says his company’s dual-flow handline nozzle started its life as a design for the United States Navy, as did a portable monitor design that could be used for shipboard fires. Akron Brass works with all five branches of the United States military, as well as with the National Guard. “The original concept for the Mercury portable monitor was for the Navy,” Singer points out, “where Navy personnel could deploy and leave an unmanned device to fight fires on a ship. Likewise, our dual-flow nozzle started as a military design for the Navy. It was later expanded, refined, and provided to the municipal fire market as the SaberJet nozzle.”

The Akron SaberJet can put out a solid stream, fog pattern, or both at the same time, Singer notes. “In some cases, the products we provide to the military have been highly specialized to meet stringent and unique military requirements,” Singer says. “There’s often a need for design robustness that can withstand a saltwater environment or to take excessive shock or vibration.”

Another firefighting solution embraced by the military that is finding its way into municipal departments is ultra-high-pressure (UHP) applications, Singer adds. “UHP designs are moving from United States Air Force applications, where a lot of UHP testing and work have been done, and into the municipal fire world and the wildland fire industry,” he says.

On the other hand, Singer says, “We’ve seen solutions started on the civilian side that get taken up by the military, with remote control monitor solutions that have for a long time been embraced in industrial firefighting now being applied by various military branches.”

Rod Carringer, chief marketing officer for Task Force Tips (TFT), says TFT also works with all United States military branches because fire suppression is part of their mission at nearly every level. “We’ve done a lot of work with the Navy, especially on submarines,” Carringer says. “They ask us for certain design and performance standards, and often they are not too far from what we offer commercially to municipal and industrial customers.”

Carringer says a lot of the TFT military business is in manual handheld nozzles, monitors, and foam-making equipment that is very similar to the kinds of equipment used by municipal fire departments. “A lot of military firefighting deals with base activities, so it is pretty much the same equipment and apparatus as you’d find in your local fire department,” he says. “However, there are some specific hazards on bases that have to be dealt with, and those sometimes require more specialized equipment. Typically, considering the specialty designs that we do for the military, it’s pretty rare for those to come back into a commercial application.”

The United States Air Force recently purchased this HP 75 aerial ladder from E-ONE and stationed it at one of its air bases
(2) The United States Air Force recently purchased this HP 75
aerial ladder from E-ONE and stationed it at one of its air bases.
(Photo courtesy of E-ONE.)

Usually, the specific mission of the military firefighters directs the kind of equipment that needs to be purchased, Carringer observes. “Pressure, flow, and reach are some of the concerns they have,” he says. “The equipment they buy has to perform the same no matter where it’s used in the world, and it must be consistent and have proven performance, no matter who is using it.”

Carringer says that TFT has “gotten into a lot of remote-controlled equipment with various military branches because sometimes firefighting has to take place in a hazardous location where they don’t want a human.”

As an example of how sales to the military have helped with the design of commercial firefighting equipment, Carringer cites a United States Air Force air base in the Pacific where planes have to be washed after every mission to clear them of salt water. “The airmen have to clean the planes 24/7,” he says, “and the experience we gained from that kind of use has helped us make decisions on municipal equipment products in terms of reliability and robustness.”

Long History

Eric Combs, director of marketing for Elkhart Brass, says his firm works with all five service branches and that it “has a long history of supplying brass components to the Navy and Coast Guard. Their handline business is something we’ve enjoyed for decades, typically a fixed-flow nozzle of 95 or 125 gallons per minute (gpm), although they have purchased 250-gpm nozzles.”

The basic design of nozzles Elkhart furnishes to the military comes from the municipal fire service, Combs says, while adding certain elements required by the military, such as brass construction. “Simple operation is key in military purchases,” Combs points out. “In the Navy, anyone on a vessel may have to use the equipment, so they want it easy to use and prefer fixed flow so they take away the additional challenge of selecting the right flow rate.”

LE600 trailer-mounted pump system
(3) W.S. Darley & Co. has developed several products for the
military that have potential applications for the fire service, like
this LE600 trailer-mounted pump system it is delivering to the
United States Marine Corps. (Photo courtesy of W.S. Darley &

Combs says Elkhart sees the military as the leading edge of some new technology for the municipal fire industry. “Ultra-high-pressure systems have largely been developed through the efforts of the United States Air Force and now the Navy is on board as well,” he notes. “About 11 years ago, Elkhart started a research and development effort with the Air Force and went through a number of UHP product iterations, working closely with the folks at Tyndall Air Force Base, in Florida, where the product was being tested and evaluated.”

Combs points out that Elkhart’s UHP Sidewinder EXM and a UHP Chief handline nozzle are the result of working with the Air Force on UHP projects. “UHP puts unique challenges on monitors and nozzles because the internal forces are significantly higher,” Combs says. “Machining becomes highly critical, and some traditional materials used in the fire service can’t handle the pressures.”

As a result of the UHP military work, Elkhart designed a new stainless steel thrust rod technology for its monitors that can handle the up to 1,500 pounds per square inch (psi) required of UHP systems. “We took that technology, applied it to the municipal market, and put it into our EXM monitor line, which increases the longevity and reliability of the monitors and reduces wear and tear.”


Paul Darley, president and chief executive officer of W.S. Darley & Co., says his company is doing a lot of business with the military from a manufacturing standpoint. “We’ve received a contract for $85.1 million to provide our LE600 pump systems to the U.S. Marine Corps,” Darley points out. “The contract is for 1,500 trailer-mounted pumps that are deliverable over the next five years.”

The pumps will be used for fuel and potable water transfer to Marines in combat, Darley says. They are coupled to a John Deer four-cylinder 149-hp liquid-cooled engine mounted on a two-wheel chassis and are capable of pumping 1,000 gpm at 150 psi, exceeding the Marines’ requirements by 67 percent.

Avon Protection has been a long-time supplier to the military and used its experience in producing military gas masks when it developed the Deltair SCBA
(4) Avon Protection has been a long-time supplier to the military and
used its experience in producing military gas masks when it developed
the Deltair SCBA. (Photo courtesy of Avon Protection.)

Darley also has won a United States Defense Department contract for $5 million for remote-controlled robots to go to Afghanistan. The robots will be used to search vehicles at checkpoints, surveillance of structures prior to entering, and detonating improvised explosive devices on roads traveled by military personnel.

In addition, the United States Air Force also recently contracted for up to 212 Pyrolance L1000 fire protection systems from Darley at a cost of approximately $7.5 million. The system uses UHP to penetrate walls and other barriers by flowing water at 10 gpm at a 1,500-psi pressure and speeds of 400 miles per hour (mph).

Darley points out that three years ago, his company did “zero dollars in defense work.” He anticipates more than $100 million in military sales this year.

Darley also thinks his company’s drone, the Stinger, will make inroads into both the military and municipal fire markets before long. “It’s designed for use by firefighters and also for military operations,” Darley says. “It has a high-definition camera in it that directly links to its base on the ground and can be outfitted with digital video, biotechnology, chemical, thermal, and radiation modules.”

Breathing Protection

Avon Protection also has a long history of working with military services, says Mark Williamson, Avon’s global product manager for supplied air products. “We’ve been designing respiratory protection for the military since World War I, mainly out of the United Kingdom where we make gas masks for the Ministry of Defense,” Williamson says. “We currently have a U.S. military contract for the M50 gas mask for all U.S. military branches.”

For the fire service market, Williamson says, “It’s natural for us to pull over some of the technology that we use in the military mask and also some of its materials to the municipal fire market.” As an example, he cites Avon’s Deltair self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). “Its rubber compounds were designed by us based on our military models,” he says, “and the unit went through the same rigorous testing we use for military products, which have to stand up for many years in very hostile environments.”

Williamson says Avon also performed salt water testing in an ocean environment for the Deltair, which is military specification testing, as well as cold and hot weather testing and corrosion testing so the pneumatic components didn’t corrode and the straps held up for an extended period of time. “We built the same ruggedness in for the fire service as we did for the military,” he says.

The Akron Brass Co. Mercury portable monitor
(5) The Akron Brass Co. Mercury portable monitor was
developed from an Akron design for the United States Navy for
an unmanned portable device to fight shipboard fires. (Photo
courtesy of Akron Brass Co.)

Fire Apparatus

On the apparatus side, R.J. Jones, government and airport product sales manager for E-ONE, says his company primarily deals with the United States Air Force, Army, and Navy for military sales. “For the Air Force, we provide HP 75 aerial ladders, while the Army buys structural pumpers and aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) trucks, and the Navy buys ARFF vehicles,” he says.

The main difference in vehicles for the military, he notes, is the military uses not only NFPA 414, Standard for Aircraft Rescue and Fire-Fighting Vehicles, as its performance criteria, but it also uses the Federal Aviation Administration’s 10E document as a guide, which reverts back to NFPA 414. “The military also are adopting more NFPA 1901 options into their specs,” Jones says, “such as tire pressure monitoring systems, seat belt indicator systems, electric ladder racks, and other safety-based items.”

Jones says that E-ONE has been a military supplier for about 30 years and believes more business is at hand this year because a lot of contracts have been bid but not awarded yet. “We’re also seeing a lot more emphasis on green technology in the form of auxiliary power units for idle reduction,” he says. “We’ve also developed an Eco-Logic system to be released for the next NFPA 414 version for crash trucks that will allow them to test their foam systems without actually using foam. The system will be incorporated into the vehicles.”

At KME, Phil Gerace, director of sales and marketing, says his company has worked with all five United States military branches and military customers from other countries, as well as the United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and several state wildland agencies. For that assortment of customers, KME has supplied a full range of apparatus, Gerace says, including pumpers, aerials, rescues, tankers, wildland vehicles, and ARFF trucks.

Gerace says many designs of vehicles for military customers are “often very similar to what’s available in the municipal fire service. The military does a good job of allowing the fire department at the final destination to make modest changes to the base specification to consider its unique environment, for example, a fuel source, cold weather, or elevation.” But, Gerace adds that the military creates mission-specific apparatus and specs that may differ from municipal units because of the unique mission or environment of the vehicle.

However, Gerace says he “continues to see technology shares between municipal and military fire departments.” He points to the Air Force’s use of UHP pumping systems as a reason “the U.S. military is a leader in cutting-edge fire technology and often investigating new technologies.”

John Daggett, marketing director at Oshkosh Corp., says his company has long-time relationships with military customers. Technology developed for the military that has worked into municipal firefighting vehicles, he says, includes Oshkosh’s TAK-4 independent suspension and its Command Zone advanced electronics.

The military version of the TAK-4 suspension has up to 16 inches of wheel travel, which improves off road mobility and travel over rough terrain. As a result of its military application, Oshkosh incorporated the technology into all of its medium payload tactical trucks and ARFF vehicles. Daggett says that more than 50 percent of Pierce Manufacturing’s municipal fire vehicles have the ride enhancements of the TAK-4 independent front suspension.

The Command Zone is Oshkosh’s computer-controlled, multiplexed electronics system that operates and diagnoses all major vehicle systems. Oshkosh first introduced the technology in municipal fire service applications and later expanded its use into military and commercial trucks. More than 1,500 trucks equipped with Command Zone electronics are currently in use.

ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based freelance writer and is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.