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Marines, SwRI to demonstrate new anti-traction system for controlling crowds and securing facilities

San Antonio -- December 10, 2001 -- Throughout the past decade, the U.S. Marine Corps has been tasked with establishing and maintaining law and order, countering civil disturbances, and responding to various threats around the globe. A new anti-traction system developed at Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) will help the Marines stop or deter threats without the use of deadly force.

The Mobility Denial System (MDS) is a non-hazardous chemical spray system that spreads a highly slippery, viscous gel to inhibit the movement of individuals or vehicles on treated surfaces such as asphalt, concrete, grass, and wood. The obstacle it creates enables military or law enforcement personnel to stop or delay crowds and equipment, and isolate facilities such as embassies, loading docks, piers, or other restricted areas.

"Riots, protests, noncombatant evacuations, and sanction enforcement are just a few of the situations where this kind of tactical barrier would be most useful," says Capt. Andrew B. Warren, MDS project officer for Marine Corps Systems Command, headquartered in Quantico, Va. "The substance severely reduces surface friction and results in a loss of traction or control."

Two methods are used to dispense the substance. A vehicle-mounted system provides wide-area coverage and a self-contained, man-portable dispenser enables targeted applications in and around buildings. Both systems are easy to use and quick to deploy. The man-portable system weighs about 55 pounds when loaded and carries enough material to cover a 2,000-square foot area. The vehicle-mounted system fits in the cargo compartment of an HMMWV (Humvee®) and provides about 100,000 square feet of coverage -- about the size of two football fields.

USMC and SwRI team members selected the formulation based on its superior effectiveness in reducing friction, ability to sustain loads, safety, commercial availability, and acceptable cost. Water is used as the dispersing agent and as the catalyst that activates the material to achieve the desired characteristics. It works under a vehicle's tires at low to high speeds and under normal foot loads.

In addition to horizontal surfaces, this substance can be sprayed on vertical surfaces such as walls, windows, doors, and fences. The horizontal surfaces of buildings can also be sprayed to preclude the use of ladders or other scaling devices. "The formulation adheres to a variety of building materials -- concrete, metal, wood, vinyl, tile, and glass," says Program Manager Ron Mathis, a principal engineer in the SwRI Applied Physics Division. "Once a foot or a tire is coated with the substance, the anti-traction material is transferred to uncoated surfaces, making them slippery as well."

The anti-traction substance is effective at surface temperatures ranging from 32 to 125 degrees Fahrenheit and lasts six to 12 hours. The material works equally well on smooth or rough surfaces. A patent is pending on the MDS system.

"The concept of employment for this system is to be part of a barrier or obstacle plan that will provide stand-off distance and force protection for U.S. military personnel," says Warren. "The MDS will be applicable in many different missions to include checkpoint operations, denying avenues of approach, and dealing with confrontational crowds."

For more information, contact Maria Stothoff, Southwest Research Institute, P.O. Drawer 28510, San Antonio, Texas 78228-0510, Phone (210) 522-3305, Fax (210) 522-3547 or Maj. Guillermo A. Canedo, U.S. Marine Corps, (703) 614-4309.

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