Mike Pickup is product manager at HESCO Bastion Ltd. During his 18 years of service in the British Army Royal Engineers, he deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Poland, Germany, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, and the United States. He is a chartered mechanical engineer with extensive experience in force protection engineering, and recently took the time to answer a few questions for Defense about his firm’s ubiquitous gabion baskets, which have changed the construction of military fortifications worldwide.
Defense: Were military uses originally foreseen for the bastions, or were they seen solely as devices for flood control and to combat erosion?
Mike Pickup: The initial products were principally aimed at flood prevention and erosion control, but over time gradually became acknowledged as the leading product in providing a rapid method of providing ballistic and blast protection.
How did it come about that they began to be used by the military? Did HESCO market them or was HESCO approached about military uses?
HESCO Bastion Ltd. was approached by the military following a published article demonstrating how effective the gabion baskets were in combating coastal erosion.
What is it about the product that makes it so well suited for military use?
The product is particularly well-suited for military use as it has outstanding blast and ballistic protection properties. The product is simple in nature and readily accepted by soldiers due to its performance and ease and speed of construction. The numerous variations of the product allow for a variety of problems to be addressed by altering the concertainer configurations and being able to rapidly respond to a change to the perceived threat level.
Can you give some idea of the depth and breadth of use of HESCO Bastion products by militaries?
HESCO Bastion products are used by militaries worldwide, principally providing perimeter and containment walls and protected accommodation and storage facilities. Due to their ease of construction, HESCO Bastion products have proved to be extremely versatile and are used for a variety of purposes, such as chicanes, weapon and gun emplacements, reinforcement of existing structures, bollards, etc.
What about other uses? Although we see the military uses every day in this industry, I understand that HESCO gabions were used to reinforce the levees in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, for example.
The uses for HESCO Bastion products are numerous; they have been supplied to the United Nations for humanitarian purposes and are also used in the construction industry for creating structures such as earth embankments and retaining walls, erosion control, and flood protection and prevention.
What sort of development has gone on with the products? How wide a range of products does HESCO Bastion produce today?
All HESCO Bastion products undergo a rigorous development process to ensure the user gets a robust and fault-free product. HESCO Bastion produces a comprehensive array of products, ranging from small gabion baskets of 0.61 meters high to baskets in excess of 2 meters high. HESCO Bastion also manufactures the HESCO Accommodation Bunker for up to eight personnel, which can be converted into a medical facility, and also the larger Extended Overhead Protection System [EOPS], which provides a much larger protected working area. HESCO has also recently introduced recoverable units, which allows the product to be reused and/or easily removed.
Can you describe the RAID system and its advantages?
RAID is a system developed by HESCO Bastion to allow the rapid deployment of a number of units which can then be filled to provide a substantial level of force protection in a very short period of time. The advantage over conventional HESCO Bastion gabions is in the nature of its deployment from an ISO container.
What can you tell us about the two types of HESCO Accommodation Bunker? What are the advantages of these structures?
The HESCO Accommodation Bunker provides a rapidly constructed method of providing secure accommodation for up to eight personnel. The bunker provides protection against indirect fire up to and including 122 mm rockets.
This interview was first published in Defense: Winter 2012 Review Edition.