News & Testimonials

Independent Rough Terrain Center


A Marine Corps vehicle designed to transport International Standards Organization containers to supply Fleet Marines just reached a key acquisition milestone.

The Rough Terrain Container Handler moves 20-to-40-foot ISO containers and shelters on rough terrain, beaches and other surfaces to assist with land and amphibious missions. The machine can lift and transport objects weighing more than 50,000 pounds.

In September 2020, an upgraded version of the material handler reached full-rate production.

“The Rough Terrain Container Handler resupplies Marines during battle,” said Matt Wilson, project officer for the RTCH program at Marine Corps Systems Command. “It’s a big, monster machine that you’d have to see in operation to really appreciate.”

RTCH operates worldwide on rough surfaces, including sandy terrain, and is capable of ordnance ammunition handling operations. The vehicle can be quickly configured for transport by road, rail and marine landing craft, or by air in C-5 or C-17 cargo aircraft.

The vehicle is commonly used during amphibious landings, where engineer equipment operators can employ the RTCH to offload containers, stage them on the beach and push cargo and supplies out to Marines as needed. The machine can also travel through shallow waters and transport ISO containers onto floating bridges called causeways.

 18 SEP 2020 | Matt GonzalesMarine Corps Systems Command

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Project ROBORTCH 2020

IRTC is working on additional robotics capability based on the RT240 Version 4 platform. IRTC has partnered with the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA to conduct a Concept Analysis of the benefits and feasibility of applying autonomy and robotics to the current generation of the RT240 RTCH.

The RT240 V4 platform has a state-of-the-art electronic control system that IRTC is leveraging for semi-autonomous and autonomous capabilities, including remote teleoperation, operator assist, and full autonomous capabilities (RoboRTCH).

RoboRTCH has the potential to transform in-field container handling in rough terrain by making it faster and safer, and in the process also enable new capabilities such as container location tracking. What started as a program centered on providing greater operator assistance to improve performance is just “opening the door” to a new paradigm shifting RTCH that can significantly change DoD Logistics.

IRTC and NREC anticipate a technical concept and recommendation in Summer 2020 and looks forward to further customer engagement on the benefits of RoboRTCH.

IRTC wins US Marine Corps’ $62M contract to (“SLEP”)  117 Rough Terrain Container Handlers

A Tiny Company Wins BIG! The US Marine Corps Systems Command has notified Texas-based Independent Rough Terrain Center LLC (“IRTC”) it has been selected to perform a Service Life Extension Program (“SLEP”) of the US Marine Corps’ fleet of 117 Rough Terrain Container Handlers (“RTCH”). This $62M contract award will be executed over a five year contract, extendable for an additional five years. IRTC is the proud parent of the RTCH and looks forward to performing this contract for the US Marine Corps with its qualified team of RTCH technicians, engineers, and supply chain experts.

This contract award marks an important step for IRTC. The company is now nineteen months removed from foreign ownership and established as an independently owned United States small business. Backed by significant capital from US investors, IRTC is taking the RTCH to new heights. The Company has also entered the commercial market, with a variation of the RTCH serving the oilfields by moving containerized sand. This contract with the Marine Corps recognizes the benefits of recent advances by IRTC in new technologies that digitize the vehicle. A strong base in Cibolo outside of San Antonio provides a great assembly plant, test grounds and warehousing. A highly qualified workforce makes it all possible.

San Antonio-area industrial-vehicle maker gets new life, lands $62M Marine Corps contract

“Rebuilding the RTCH”

The upgraded RTCH features a new computer system, including for the steering and transmission. It also will get a radar that detects nearby objects. Its fuel economy has been increased by 17 percent, reducing the time spent refueling. It’s also more “ergonomically friendly,” said technician Steve Stephens.

“It handles loads faster. It’s more productive, so you can get more out of it as far as moving the cans,” Mott added, referring to the 20- and 40-foot shipping containers. The vehicles can lift containers weighing as much as 53,000 pounds.

The Marines gave another company Speakes wouldn’t identify a RTCH so the Corps would have competition in the bidding for the $62 million SLEP contract. Speakes described the company as “ferocious because they’re really big.”

Still, IRTC won the contract. As a small business, IRTC is more attractive to the Defense Department, Speakes said.

The Marines looked at replacing its fleet with new vehicles but opted instead to rebuild its existing fleet — more than a decade old — and extend its usefulness until 2030, said Mike Farley, team lead for the Marine Corps System Command’s Material Handling and Construction Equipment Team in Virginia.

“It would cost us probably — this is just a guesstimate — between $1.2 million and $1.4 million per new machine,” he said. “We can do these roughly (for) $500,000 a SLEP. So we’re actually saving the government a significant amount of money.”

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Leidos purchase of a RT240 RTCH

to support the National Science Foundation

in McMurdo Station, Antarctica 

Leidos has bought from the Independent Rough Terrain Center (IRTC) a RT240 Rough Terrain Container Handler (RTCH) use in McMurdo Station, Antarctica.  The RTCH was purchased to support the National Science Foundation under the auspices of the Antarctic Support Contract.  The RTCH and a team of IRTC employees expect to start operations in early 2020.

 The RTCH is specifically designed to provide ISO container handling in unimproved environments, with over 1,325 units in service worldwide.  Deployable via ship, train, or aircraft, the RT240 RTCH will leave the factory in Cibolo, Texas for an estimated 10,000 mile journey to Antarctica.  The RTCH is a combining of a port container handler with the off-road mobility of a 4 wheel drive and 400 horsepower engine to yield exceptional performance in rough terrain environments.

 With a background in US and International military applications, IRTC looks forward to the harsh climate that Antarctica will provide.  Backed by detailed US Army testing and current operations in Alberta, Canada, IRTC is confident that the RTCH will quickly become into the backbone of Leidos heavy lift operations in Antarctica. Recent operations in Midland, Texas saw the movement of 1,000 containers a week, a number that could apply to the demanding logistics operations spearheaded by Leidos at McMurdo.

 IRTC is mindful of the likelihood of the RTCH being a permanent resident in Antarctica, and is outfitting the machine and testing to the highest standard for Leidos operations.  With a motto of “Dare to be Great”, IRTC is taking a major step in that direction with the shipment of a RTCH to Antarctica.

DLA Distribution Expeditionary acquires four state-of-the-art assets for the price of one

Photo By Lt. Col. Edward Shank

NEW CUMBERLAND, Pa., Oct. 16, 2019 —
After 18 years of operational support to the Global War on Terror it is easy to forget just how unpredictable things were for military services in early days, months and years following Sept. 11, 2001. At that time no one knew with certainty exactly where U.S. troops would be stationed, how long they would be there or what equipment they would need to move supplies.

John Heikkinen, a retired Army first sergeant who now works as the planning and operations specialist for Defense Logistics Agency Distribution J3, remembers a time when logisticians tried to prepare for that uncertain future by amassing as much equipment as they could get their hands on. As a result, he says, there is still a lot of good equipment in the military’s inventory that was only slightly used or never used at all. One such item fitting that description was the Rough Terrain Container Handler – a wheeled vehicle capable of moving and stacking large shipment containers.

“Typically the military services ship material in containers to our forward locations on trucks,” says Heikkinen, who is responsible for managing the DLA Distribution Expeditionary strategic enabler. DDXX enables regional DLA commanders with a deployable, scalable and joint distribution capability that supports combatant commanders, operational and logistical requirements for unified land operations and contingency operations. DDXX also provides support for humanitarian aid and disaster relief efforts in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “The RTCH allows us to take the containers off the truck chassis and process that material, even in austere environments such as Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Although he knew the DLA Expeditionary team had a need for such equipment, Heikkinen also knew their price tag: about $1.2 million each. In a time of unprecedented budget constraints, the purchase of new machines would simply not be feasible, so the retired soldier started thinking outside the box.

“I knew the Marines had excess in their inventory sitting in a desert storage location in Barstow, California,” Heikkinen says, “so I sent a team out there to do a quick technical inspection to see if these were assets we could pull back into our inventory. As it turned out, the Marines had four assets they no longer needed, so we did an inner-service transfer agreement, which basically means that DLA took them off the Marine Corps’ hands at no cost.”

Although the equipment itself was free, there were still costs involved. Each RTCH had been sitting in storage for about 10 years, prompting the need to repair and replace various hoses and hydraulics. Then there was the cost of transporting them from their location in Barstow and paying for several upgrades.

“Essentially we upgraded the hydraulics, increasing their lift capacity from 50,000 pounds to 57,000 pounds,” explains Heikkinen. “We also improved the situational awareness for the operators. It now has a full camera system mounted on the boom, on the container lifting points, pedestrian backup cameras as well, so it’s a very safe system for the operator to be in. One of the other upgrades was the environmental kit we had put on it for changing hydraulic oils and fluids – there’s no possibility of spillage anymore, so that was a kit we had added along with a full complement of lighting.”

RTCH operators, Heikkinen says, will also be impressed with the upgrades.

“The cab is very comfortable,” he says. “It has ultraviolet protected screens in there and a very powerful air conditioning for these guys in here. The manufacturer said they removed about a mile’s worth of cabling in there and we went to a different electronic sensor, so not only do we save a little bit of weight on that, but this new modernized computer system allow our maintenance technicians to see exactly what’s happening with the machine through an onboard diagnostic, which greatly reduces downtime for maintenance.”

The total cost of transporting and upgrading the four RTCHs totaled just under $1 million, saving the agency nearly $3.5 million over purchasing four new machines. But just as impressive, Heikkinen, says, it the new capability granted to DLA.

“These new RTCHs have the ability to pick up 57,000 pounds from ground level to a carry position,” Heikkinen says. “It will work in an austere environment in rough terrain. It can ford up to 4 feet of water, go on 26% grade and it’s fully air mobile. This is the only container handler in the world that can be reconfigured to be flown on aircraft. It was a big win for DLA Distribution to procure these assets.”

RT022 Makes Almost 200 Mile Journey Across Liberia

Hey, I apologize but you guys might cringe when you read this. I’m working in Liberia and my organization, Partners in Health, received a Kalmar RT022 as part of an asset disposition following the U.S. Military and PAE ending operations for the Ebola response in Summer. Since our organization is working on long-term healthcare system strengthening in remote regions, which requires significant logistical support, we received the unit to assist our ongoing work. However, when we received the Kalmar RT022 it was in Zwedru, a location nearly 200 miles away from our base of operations in Harper. Connected by what is considered one of the worst roads in Africa, especially during the rainy season. While there’s certainly lots of mud and water, the dry spots, which create a semi-permanent rocky surface, are the worst and cause the most wear and tear on vehicles. For example Toyota Landcruisers, even with maintenance support, have an estimated useful life of 2 years when delivered brand new. We were unable to move the unit via heavy-cargo truck, so instead were forced to drive it the distance between Zwedru and Harper. Over the course of two days for about 12 hours a day I operated the Kalmar RT022 on one of the worst roads in Africa for nearly 200 miles. We were able to easily bypass trucks designed for off-road conditions who had been stuck in mud and water. On the dry-spots famous for shaking vehicles to death (we’ve deadlined 2 cargo trucks in as many weeks that were received new and nearly new condition) I did my best to navigate carefully, but routinely failed to do so.

The Kalmar RT022 took a beating and a half on a road that regularly destroys vehicles designed to traverse such conditions. At the end of the two days we made it safely to Harper and while I was able to catch a rest we put it to work immediately. Our unit is currently in use and running great. We’ve used it to “shift” containers into place to get our operations center online, which opened up our storage and distribution capacity. We also use it to unload and load pallets at the port and then oftentimes have it drive in tandem with our flatbed to a delivery site in order to have a heavy lift platform to deliver the materials in a remote and austere setting. We also use it frequently to drop generators in many of our and our partners’ sites that are also located in remote or difficult to access places. Basically, it’s impressed me so much that I decided to make sure I took some time to find your contact information and thank you guys for your product. I know your products are used in critical and important missions around the world but figured I’d at least give you another example of your machines being put to work in a good way by helping to rebuild the healthcare systems in post-Ebola Liberia.


Robert Rains