RDECOM implements 'green' simulators
March 25, 2008
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Two of the Army's simulation devices just got greener. Thanks to the efforts of U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's Perchlorate Replacement Team, the ground burst projectile simulator and the hand grenade simulator will be fielded with more environmentally friendly materials.
The M115A2 ground burst projectile simulator and the M116A1 hand grenade simulator will now be produced without perchlorate; an energetic composition used for the flash, bang and whistle effects of the simulators. Instead, they will contain a material comprised of black powder, aluminum, and silica sand.
The simulators are used at training ranges throughout the Army and the Department of Defense to prepare Soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen for the rigors of combat by simulating the stress and confusion of hand grenade and artillery explosions.
The Office of the Secretary of Defense has actively sought opportunities for the reduction of perchlorate in training munitions because it can be a health concern in areas where it is released to ground water.
"Perchlorate is very water soluble and reaches ground water easily," said Dr. Mark Johnson, Toxicologist for the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventative Medicine. "It inhibits proper functioning of the thyroid, is regulated in drinking water by several states, and will likely be regulated in drinking water by the EPA in very low concentrations (parts per billion)."
The M115A2 and M116A1 represent the majority of perchlorate use on training ranges. Replacing perchlorate in the simulators is a significant development in decreasing the potential for contamination at installations and surrounding communities.
"This program is part of an overall DoD effort, critical for demonstrating to the U.S. Congress and the public that DoD seriously considers potential human health risks from perchlorate releases and is willing to act to reduce those risks," said Shannon Cunniff, Director, Emerging Contaminants Directorate Office of Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Installations and Environment). "The implementation of the perchlorate-free simulators is an important step in that process."
Transitioning to a new energetic composition for simulation munitions is unprecedented.
"In the past, research has been unable to identify an environmentally benign energetic material for munitions without losing consistent, acceptable performance," said Bill Ruppert, assistant program director for the Perchlorate Replacement Team. "Our research has proven we can eliminate the dependence on perchlorate without sacrificing any capabilities of the devices."
The research to move towards more environmentally sound training tools reflects the commitment RDECOM has made to being good stewards of military installations.
"We strive to minimize the impact on the environment," said Maryalice Miller, the Perchlorate Replacement Team leader and RDECOM director of Environmental Acquisition and Logistics Sustainment Program. "To accomplish our mission, we must maintain sustainable training ranges for the long term."
The fielding of the new versions of the M115A2 and M116A1 is the culmination of five years of research and collaboration from the Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center, the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, the Project Manager for Close Combat Systems, the Army Environmental Command, the Joint Munitions Life Cycle Management Command, the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventative Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Hughes Associates Inc, and Pyrotechnique by Grucci, Inc.
ECBC and ARDEC were tasked with researching alternative energetic compounds and rigorously testing any solutions. Other members of the team provided oversight in the areas of human health, environmental impact, resource management, and production viability.
Miller stressed the importance of working with a multi-disciplinary team. "The success of this project is largely attributable to the group's wide range of expertise. Our team was comprised of individuals from multiple Army organizations as well as academia and private industry."
The Army uses more than 500,000 hand grenade simulators and ground burst projectile simulators on installations each year. RDECOM has awarded the contract to produce the new simulators to Pyrotechnique by Grucci, Inc., who will begin production soon.
"The plan is to start producing the M115A2 ground burst simulators in Sept. of 2008 and have them issued and ready for use in Jan. of 2009," said Col. Raymond Nulk, Project Manager for Close Combat Systems. "As for the M116A1 grenade simulators, we expect production to begin in May of 2009 and field them in Sept. of 2009."
Because of their efforts, the RDECOM Perchlorate Replacement Team has recently been named a recipient of the Secretary of the Army Environmental Award. The team has also been nominated for two Presidential awards and the Office of Secretary of Defense's Environment Award.
"To be recognized for these honors is a reflection of the effort and dedication from the people involved in this project," said Miller. "It was especially satisfying to see the team take a project from initial research all the way to implementation."
RDECOM plans to apply the research to future projects and replace perchlorate in more simulators, including the M117/M118/M119 family of booby trap simulators and the M274 smoke signature practice warhead.
"This program is just the beginning," said Ruppert. "The results of this research will be leveraged in dozens of other weapons systems."