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Aluminum and Military Landing Mat

Military Landing Mats

Landing Mats in World War II

In December 1939, the Air Corps asked the Army Corps of Engineers to study European landing mats and select or modify one for American planes. The Army decided in December 1941 to produce the PSP landing mat primarily because of its ease of production. During World War II, the United States produced a staggering 800 million square feet of PSP landing mats.

The pierced steel plank (PSP) matting was used extensively by front line construction personnel to build runways and other readily usable surfaces over all types of terrain in the Pacific Theater of Operations. The PSP landing mat is also commonly known as the Marston Mat, named for a town in North Carolina adjacent to Camp Mackall airfield, where it was first used and manufactured in November 1941.

Airfield MattingEven though the PSP became the landing mat deployed nearly universally, the Air Corps seriously considered using an aluminum landing mat. This material reduced the landing mat’s weight, which allowed smaller planes to carry it into areas inaccessible to heavier aircraft. The Corps subsequently asked the Aluminum Company of America to work with various contractors to develop the new landing mat. This effort resulted in the pierced aluminum plank (PAP) landing mat. The design of the lightweight aluminum-alloy planks mirrored the standard PSP. Since its service life was only half as long, the aluminum landing mat never replaced steel during World War II.

Once designed, tested, and ordered for procurement, the steel landing mat had to be produced in great quantities. To meet the demands of the armed forces, steel companies retooled to accommodate the landing mat production. Some 30 factories made pierced steel plank during WW II.

During World War II, the United States manufactured a quantity of landing mats capable of building a roadway around the world’s equator. Some 2 million tons of landing mat totaling $200 million accounted for enough steel to build 650 10,000-ton cargo ships.

Military Landing MatWith the use of jet powered aircraft replacing propeller driven aircraft, problems with Foreign Object Debris (FOD) arose. Jet engines’ safety and performance were degraded. For this reason the M8A1 landing mat was designed. The M8A1 landing mats were 12-foot-by-22-inch and constructed from a solid sheet of steel and contained no holes. These mats were eventually replaced with the AM-2 aluminum landing mat.

AM-2 aluminum matting was adopted by the Air Force in 1965 for use in nearly all bases in South Vietnam. AM-2 landing mats were 1.5-inch thick aluminum alloy panels, 12-foot-by-2-foot, each weighing 144 pounds. A nonskid ferrous coating was factory-applied to the wearing surface. The AM-2 aluminum landing mat is still in use today.

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