Looking back on 20 years of military hangar innovation

Rubb Buildings have been helping to protect UK military personnel, equipment and operations for more than 30 years. The relationship first took off when Rubb Buildings Ltd supplied a storage building to the Red Arrows in 1979. Since then Rubb military structures have been meeting expeditionary operation requirements all over the world. 


The development of the EFASS range in 1999 was a turning point in Rubb’s military offerings, however. The range of relocatable rapiderect military structures for aircraft, military storage warehouses, aviation shelters and sunshades have been a staple of Rubb ever since. 


Over the EFASS’s 20-year history, Rubb’s unique fabric engineered structure has been deployed in Afghanistan as part of UK, Canadian and USA military operations, at Gioia del Colle air base in southern Italy as part of the NATO led Operation ELLAMY and used in anti-piracy missions by EUNAVFOR in The Seychelles. Rubb military buildings also feature at many UK bases including RAF Northolt and RAF LakenheathRubb Buildings have helped defend crews from the elements and housed invaluable equipment in the field – including Bravo November, the veteran Chinook helicopter from the Falklands campaign which survived an attack during the conflict and went on to serve in Iraq, Northern Ireland, the Balkans, the Lebanon, Kurdistan and Afghanistan. 


Building foundations 


After delivering a 12m x 12m relocatable building to RAF Kemble in Cirencester in 1979, Rubb went on to win a contract for four 16.5m span hangars for the Tornado Squadron at RAF Cottesmore in 1981. The company developed bigger 20m span hangars and 28 structures with Fast Jet Doors were delivered to Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands, earning it the nickname of ‘Rubb Alley’. A 25m span x 36m length hangar designed to house a Chinook helicopter was later delivered to Goose Green. 


Managing Director Ian Hindmoor said: “The hangars were so successful orders for more came in for bases in Germany.” Rubb military structures started to pop up all over the globe in locations including Belize and Ascension Island. Rubb Buildings Ltd has been successfully meeting Urgent Operation Requirements for the MoD ever since. Soon the research team at Rubb was developing a shelter suitable for rapid deployment. 


“We were asked to develop a hangar which could be erected without any type of handling equipment like cranes and access platforms,” added Ian. Rubb’s design team came up with the REH (Rapid Erect Hangar) and supplied 34 to the MoD in 1995. 


Feedback revealed that the MoD required a lighter and stronger structure that could be constructed in a shorter period of time. The contract was put out to competitive tender worldwide and Rubb came up with the winning concept of the RES (Rapid Environmental Shelter). Rubb’s aluminium framed, fabric covered rapid deployment shelter range, now widely known as EFASS (Expeditionary Forces Aircraft Shelter System), has been well received worldwide, and is currently used by UK, USA, Canadian, German, Lithuanian, and UAE military organisations. 


Ian said: “We fine-tuned the design to provide multiple spans by any length, electrical and insulation systems, several different door options and additional kit such as roof mounted cranes. This all packs into 20ft containers ready for rapid deployment as required. We are very proud to have been involved in many projects which support our troops overseas and happy to continue our longstanding relationship with the UK MoD.” 


Strength to strength 


2015 saw the further expansion of EFASS’s international presence. The Lithuanian Air Force also ordered three new 20.4m span x 12m long EFASS structures with Trident doors at each gable end. In addition, they requested Rubb refurbish four existing 20.4m span Rubb hangars that were constructed at the Lithuanian AF Air Base in Siauliai 10 years prior. Later that year, a storage and maintenance hangar for all terrain armoured vehicles was delivered to British Forces base in Bielefeld, Germany, continuing Rubb’s longstanding partnership. 



Rubb’s relationship with the MoD has gone from strength to strength. In 2016, Rubb UK MD Ian Hindmoor and Sales Manager Andy Knox were invited to attend RAF 5001 Squadron’s special luncheon to commemorate their 75th anniversary.  


5001 Squadron is responsible for the rapid construction of Temporary Working Environment (TWE) and the installation of Portable Aircraft Arrestor Gear (PAAG). TWE provides environmentally controlled facilities, including Rubb military structures, for Fast Jet or Rotary assets and has been supporting exercises and Operations in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Europe and the Falkland Islands.  


The squadron has close ties to Rubb through the success of the EFASS range and continues to be instrumental to its development today. 


Rubb has also aided the MoD with their own developments, with Rubb Military aircraft shelters playing a pivotal role in the environmental trial of Typhoon aircraft at RAF Coningsby in 2017.  


5001 Squadron constructed four 20.4m span structures for the ‘BUZZARD’S NEST’ trial at RAF Coningsby. The trial was a success and advantageous to all parties, with the Typhoon Force proving the viability and benefits of utilising small aircraft shelters in military operations.  


MoD figures from the ‘BUZZARD’S NEST’ trial revealed that the Rubb shelters help deliver a tangible increase in available sorties (by more than 10%) and a decrease in aborted sorties. The trial reaffirms the belief that TWE substantially decreases the maintenance cost of aircraft and also increases the number of hours aircraft can fly due to less maintenance downtime. 


2017 also saw the development of a pre-approved packing system for the EFASS range in accordance with Joint Air Delivery Test and Evaluation Unit (JADTEU) Defence Standards. Rubb provides Special Packing Inspection Sheets (SPIS) to ensure items are packed and unpacked in conjunction with JADTEU specifications, so these items can be transported in accordance with UK Defence Standards. This allows personnel from RAF 5001 Squadron to follow instructions about how to unpack and repack containers themselves when in theatre. 


In 2019, Rubb was awarded a new two-year single source contract with the MoD, potentially worth £9.5m. The new contract will see Rubb continue to provide military shelters, repairs, refurbishments, spare parts, training, Post Design Services (PDS) and support for infrastructure which can be deployed in the field. 


The then Defence Minister Stuart Andrew said: “Rubb UK is a great example of innovative and expert British engineering that provides strong investment in the North East and contributes to UK Defence. This contract demonstrates the MOD’s commitment to industry throughout the four corners of the UK and I welcome the continued supply of this crucial defence equipment.” 


Continued innovation 


As we pause to look back on 20 years of EFASS history, Rubb continues to innovate today. The latest iteration of the EFASS is in development for an international defence organisation. It is set to be the largest of the range to date, expanded to a 28m span. We look forward to sharing more information on this exciting project soon.