April 1, 2003
Everything old is new again.- Some photos of British Armored units in Southern Iraq show armored vehicles with bundles of pipes tied to the sides of these vehicles. The most likely explanation of these pipe bundles is that they are fascines. As far back as Imperial Rome, sticks tied into bundles were used for various military purposes. In the 1980s, the British Army of the Rhine (BOAR), charge with protecting Northern Germany from attacks by the Warsaw Pact across the North German plain had to develop an expedient gap crossing tool.
Generally, armored forces rely on some variant of the armored vehicle launched bridge (AVLB) for gap crossing. In terrain with many small gaps that exceed an armored vehicles self bridging capability AVLBs can be used up in a hurry. The BOAR Engineers took the age old fascine and applied modern materials. They bundled together twenty foot section of six inch or eight inch PVC (heavy duty plastic) pipe and used them to fill gaps up to 25 feet wide. These bundles of pipe (fascines) were ideal; they didnt dam up streams and cause localized flooding as just bulldozing through such gaps, and filled in gap crossing needs for shorter gaps to conserve AVLB for longer gaps.
The US Army has evaluated fascines at both the Maneuver Support Center at Fort Leonard Wood and the Armor Center at Fort Knox. While these evaluation showed fascine would work well in maintaining mobility of heavy forces the US Army has not actively pursued or trained use of fascines as have their British allies.