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Soldiers assembling a HESCO bastion.

The HESCO barrier or HESCO bastion is a modern gabion used for flood control and military fortification. It is made of a collapsible wire mesh container and heavy duty fabric liner, and used as a temporary to semi-permanent dike or barrier against blast or small-arms. One of the less heralded life- and labor-saving devices of war, it is used on nearly every United States Military base in Iraqmarker as well as on NATOmarker bases in Afghanistanmarker. It is named after the British company that developed it over a decade ago.

Originally designed for use on beaches and marshes for erosion and flood control, the HESCO Bastion quickly became a popular security device in the 1990s. Hesco barriers continue in use for their original purpose. They were used in 2005 to reinforce levees around New Orleans in the few days between Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. During the June 2008 Midwest floods 27,000 feet of Hesco barrier wall were shipped to Iowa. In late March, 2009, 35,000 feet of Hesco barrier were delivered to Fargo, North Dakotamarker to fight floods.

Technically, the brand name for the barrier is 'Concertainer', with 'HESCO Bastion' being the British company that produces it, though the barrier itself is quite generally referred to as a HESCO Bastion, or simply "Hesco".


Assembling the HESCO bastion entails unfolding it and (if available) using a front end loader to fill it with sand, dirt or gravel. The placement of the barrier is generally very similar to the placement of a sandbag barrier or earth berm except that room must generally be allowed for the equipment used to fill the barrier. The main advantage of HESCO barriers, strongly contributing to their popularity with troops and flood fighters, is the quick and easy setup. Previously, people had to fill sandbags, a slow undertaking, with one worker filling about 20 sandbags per hour. Workers using HESCO barriers and a front end loader can do ten times the work of those using sandbags.

The HESCO barriers come in a variety of sizes. Most of the barriers can also be stacked, and they are shipped collapsed in compact sets. Example dimensions of typical configurations are 4’6” x 3’6” x 32’ (1.4m x 1.1m x 9.8m) to 7’ x 5’ x 100’ (2.1m x 1.5m x 30m).

A new system of HESCO Bastion developed specially for military use is deployed from a container, which is dragged along the line of ground where the barrier is to be formed, unfolding up to several hundred meters of barrier in minutes, ready for filling with soil by a backhoe.


Filled with sand, 60 centimetres (24 inches) of barrier thickness will stop rifle bullets and shell fragments. It takes 1.5 metres (five feet) of thickness to prevent penetration by a rocket propelled grenade round. Approximately 1.2 metres (four feet) of thickness provides protection against most car bombs.

See also

  • Bremer wall, steel-reinforced concrete blast walls
  • Gabion, a historic precursor for both erosion control and defense
  • Erosion, original intended use of the Hesco-type containers
  • Sandbag, the low-tech precursor / alternative


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