Army engineers overcome challenges to field nonlethal weapons
May 31, 2013
- The system has four dischargers which can be loaded with different grenades as the situation dictates.
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (May 31, 2013) -- In an Army motor pool in Germany, half a dozen people are wielding wrenches, drills, and components. The noise of the drill dominates, as Soldiers drill mounting holes into Humvees.
Others are installing wiring harnesses and connecting batteries. Tasks and tools are handed off as they file in and out, called to attend to other duties and subsequently return.
A general mechanic's toolkit rests in the middle of the workspace. The group is made up of Soldiers of various ranks and two civilians -- a U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center program manager and a TACOM total package fielding representative. To the untrained eye, the scene looks like chaos.
"It's under control," said Richard Dixon, ECBC's Light Vehicle Obscuration Smoke System M327 program manager, and general engineer with the Smoke Systems/Riot Control Team at Rock Island, Ill. "It can look like chaos, but I'm managing everything."
The defensive system, known as LVOSS, is designed specifically to help military police with crowd management. When a military vehicle has an LVOSS installed, it has four dischargers which can be loaded with different grenades as the situation dictates.
One grenade is a smoke round, providing a screen that allows an MP unit to break contact with an enemy and leave a situation. Another can dispense a riot control agent, such as tear gas.
The LVOSS can also launch flash bang grenades that distract an enemy or launch a blunt trauma grenade which spreads rubber balls over the area.
The system can be used by MPs for riot control. The first vehicle was equipped with LVOSS in 1999 -- however the latest iteration, the M327, was initiated in 2007.
"The M327 is mounted on the M1151 armored Humvee, which replaces the M1114 Humvee," Dixon said. "LVOSS was designed to be installed on the M1114 Humvee, but because of the current Improvised Explosives Device situation, additional armor had to be added to the M1114, to the point that it was no longer feasible. So the next generation Humvee, the M1151, was developed with more armor. Once the M1151 showed up, we didn't have an LVOSS installation kit; we had to develop the kit."
Recently, the teams accomplished a new milestone: fielding eight LVOSS kits to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in Germany in just two days.
"Typically, three days is a comfortable amount of time, especially when working outside of the country," Dixon said.
However, when Dixon and TPF Representative Michelle Boerner arrived onsite at Warner Barracks in Bamberg, Germany, they faced their first challenge.
"The motor pool sergeant had other needs for the space," Dixon said, referring to the motor pool. "So we had two days."
The first day, Boerner planned to work with supply representatives to issue the LVOSS kits to soldiers. That's when a second challenge arose.
"The supply reps weren't available; Soldiers have a lot of other responsibilities," Dixon said.
Eventually, the team was able to secure permission to obtain one LVOSS kit and get started. Later that afternoon, supply representatives were available to sign out the remaining seven LVOSS kits.
Dixon took charge of the process by demonstrating how the process should go. The kits are designed to be easy to install, without a need for specialized tools -- only those provided in the Army issue general mechanics toolkit. The installations went smoothly, he said.
"The person in charge needs to know what they're doing and be able to organize the installation in a logical manner, so that installation can progress as quickly as possible," Dixon said. "A team of four to five Soldiers can be working concurrently on a series of specialized tasks: hooking up a battery, drilling mounting holes, and connecting wiring harnesses -- all of those tasks can be done simultaneously, you may just need to wait for someone to finish their assigned task. Organization is key to getting this done in an expeditious manner."
During the installation process, Soldiers are frequently called away to attend to their other responsibilities -- and both Dixon and Boerner were able to jump in, seamlessly taking over.
Dixon said Borener, a retired noncommissioned officer, was able to go outside of her normal duties and dive right in.
"I think the Special Troops Battalion of the 173rd Airborne Brigade were surprised when we put our hands on the LVOSS and actually helped them install. Apparently other contractors stop at showing them what to do. I would just hop onto the vehicle to get things started," she said.
In the end, the team was able to overcome challenges and time restrictions to successfully field the eight LVOSS kits.
ECBC is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.
RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.