M777_illumination
U.S. Soldiers with Bravo Battery, 3rd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment fire a 155 mm illumination round using an M777A2 towed howitzer at Spin Boldak, Afghanistan, on Jan. 10, 2010. (Image courtesy DVIDS)

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. (August 5, 2013) -- The saying goes, "no guts, no glory," but the Army has found glory of sorts in a gutted ammunition stockpile that would have been sold as scrap metal.

Instead of scrapping the gutted shells of 77,000 155 mm M483A1 Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions shells, the Army will pack them with payloads consisting of parachutes and candle assemblies that will illuminate nighttime operations for troops in training and combat.

Until recently, the payloads were being manufactured and shipped from Crane Army Ammunition Activity, Ind., to Pine Bluff Arsenal, Ark., where they were being packed into new shell bodies to make M485A2 Visible Light and M1066 Infrared Illumination rounds.

Now, Pine Bluff Arsenal continues to receive the same parachutes and candles assemblies, but they will be packing them into the gutted DPICM shells to make M1123 Infrared and M1124 Visible Light projectiles.

"We were paying between 250 and 300 dollars for new projectile bodies," said Joe Donini. "Now, we don't have to buy the projectile bodies."

Donini is project officer for artillery smoke and illumination products at the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal. The center is part of the U.S. Army Research Development and Engineering Command.

Making use of the previously manufactured rounds will provide the Army with a more capable projectile that avoids about $6 million in projected costs, said Paul Manz, chief scientist for the Program Executive Office for Ammunition, also at Picatinny.

Manz added that the Army could avoid as much as $8 million in projected costs.

That's because as workers become more familiar with manufacturing processes, they typically find ways to drive down costs.

Usually, paying less means getting less, but in this case the reverse is true.

Both the M485A2 VL and the M1066 IR, which come from the older M107 family of projectiles, can accept up to an artillery propelling charge of "charge 4."

The reused DPICM shell bodies with properly packaged candle and parachute assemblies can accept the Army's maximum propelling charge - charge 5 -- resulting in five kilometers greater range.

"Not only is it a big benefit to the taxpayer, but we're providing extended range," said Donini. "Now, we can see as far as we can shoot."

Illumination rounds help troops to see by providing, quite literally, a candle to light the darkness.

As an illumination round reaches its target, it expels a parachute and simultaneously lights a pyrotechnic candle, which hangs from the descending chute to illuminate enemy troop movements for approximately two minutes, according to Manz.

DESIGNING A PAYLOAD

The M485A2 illuminates in a visible, bright-white light. It is an updated version of a round that has been used by the Army since the 1970s, according to Donini.

The M1066 IR round, which entered the Army's inventory in 2010, illuminates in infrared light, which is invisible to the naked eye. Infrared illuminates for troops wearing night vision devices, so troops acquire a covert capability with the M1066.

The five kilometer difference in range between the existing M485A2/M1066 and new M1124/M1123 rounds is significant in terms of capability, explained Manz. The Army calculates potential illumination engagement area by measuring the total circular coverage area minus a "donut-hole" in the center of that area that represents where the cannon is positioned. "Cannon crews don't usually like to illuminate themselves at night," said Manz.

"So, that additional five kilometers actually gives you about a 75 percent increase in engagement area footprint coverage," said Manz."Team Picatinny constantly tries to come up with materiel improvements that benefit the Joint warfighter and the U.S. taxpayer."

Donini's team did just that when they got wind of three million DPICM rounds that were to be demilitarized at McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, Okla.

One of the biggest challenges for an armaments engineer who designs illumination projectiles is designing a payload that can properly function as intended, even after suffering the violent explosive charge that will heave the projectile miles away, according to Donini.

With the M1066 and M485A2 they had mature technologies that had proven successful when packed in the M107 family projectile bodies and fired with up to a charge 4. But what about when they were packed into a projectile that can be fired with the more powerful charge 5?

"That's where physics basically helped us," said Donini.

The reused M483A1 shell bodies are heavier than the M107 family of projectiles, Donini explained. "The acceleration within the cannon tube is not as high as it could be due to the weight," said Donini.

"It was an integration effort of mature technologies," said Karen Amabile, technical manager for the Joint Extended Range Illumination Projectiles Joint Capability Technology Demonstration. Additional parts were needed to fit the candle and parachute assemblies into the DPICM rounds because the cavities of the two round types were different. "It was low risk."

Amabile and Donini worked with various teams who completed drawings, rendered computer simulations, proved the feasibility of the project and had made eight prototypes that were successfully test fired for a demonstration.

Manz went to the Rapid Fielding Directorate, part of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, with data and drawings in hand as well as endorsements from developers and future user representatives to make a case for the proposal. "It ended up being ranked number one out of 30 different proposals being considered by OSD," said Manz.

The OSD's Rapid Fielding Directorate then sponsored the JERIP JCTD in late 2011 to validate operational military utility and qualification of both the XM1123 IR and XM1124 VL rounds for use by the Army and U.S. Marine Corps.

Success in the JERIP JCTD recently led to the project becoming a program managed officially by PEO Ammunition.

In March, the Program Executive Officer for Ammunition, Brig. Gen. John J. McGuiness, approved Milestone C and Type Classification Standard for the rounds-- military parlance that signifies the end of the engineering and manufacturing development phase of a project's maturation and the beginning of the production and deployment phase.

With the Milestone C approval, Crane and Pine Bluff can continue to manufacture 14,800 rounds as part of an effort to ensure the reliability of the rounds and their readiness to enter the Army's inventory system prior to completing the balance of production.

"It was a great team effort between the Army, the Marine Corps, the user community, the PM (project manager), Pine Bluff and Crane. Everybody knew what they had to do. Everybody got together and made it happen," said Amabile.

"We went down to Pine Bluff and introduced the program to them, gave them drawings and assembly procedures," said Donini.

"They became accustomed to it and became quite ready to do it, and now they're pretty much up to speed."

"Something like this it is a really good idea," said Manz. "We asked, 'Is there a Warfighter benefit? Is there a taxpayer benefit?' The answers to both were a definitive 'Yes,'" said Manz.

"Then Team Picatinny delivered what we promised, ahead of schedule and under budget. We also help constructively get rid of part of the U.S. stockpile of cluster ammunition scheduled for demilitarization."

"This is a model project for how technology transfer into a program of record should work," Manz said.

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Page last updated Mon August 5th, 2013 at 00:00