A lightweight, rapid-erect shelter system using a new combination of composite materials and fabric diaphragms in a truss support system has been developed in response to changes in military requirements. This paper outlines the background to the project and the reasons for its inception; it follows the development of the design from initial conceptual idea to eventual solution. Decisions influencing the overall design, structure, materials, prototyping and manufacturing techniques are discussed in relation to performance criteria and client capabilities. The authors focus on the problems encountered in the development programme and the innovation process, highlight how these problems were overcome and detail the benefits which were created. In particular, the resulting tent incorporates lightweight sprung glass reinforced composite beams, post-tensioned by a fabric diaphragm. The new shelter uses a minimum number of these lightweight, rigid components and consequently achieves a reduction in weight, erect and strike times and packed bulk through its innovations.