The U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL), Survivability/Lethality Analysis Directorate (SLAD), is planning to conduct small-scale ammunition compartment experiments to support the development of the Army's new Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV), which requires effective ammunition compartmentalization to survive threat ballistic events.

ARL is taking the first steps to develop the technology to analyze and evaluate ammunition compartments for the ammunition stored on the GCV. The compartments, when fully developed, will help protect the vehicle and crew from munitions reactions (fires, etc.) if the vehicle is struck with an over-matching threat to the armor. The best known vehicle equipped with ammunition compartments is the Abrams Main Battle Tank, which was built in the early 1980s.

Greg Mannix, SLAD, has worked in ammunition development for more than 16 years. He said the compartment tests are vital.

"It is all about improving the survivability of our Soldiers and reducing GCV vulnerability," said Mannix.

Once the small-scale experiments are completed, SLAD's next step will be to perform larger scale compartment experiments, but these experiments require a significant amount of ammunition -- more than 1,000 30 mm air burst munitions at an estimated cost of $2.1 million.

Determined to save Army resources in an austere budget environment, Mannix and Jerry Watson, SLAD contractors with Altus Engineering, Churchville, Md., identified a viable Air Force surrogate munition with the same propellant and net explosive weight.

"The older ammunition is not as high-tech as the newer, more expensive ammunition, but it has the properties we need for the experiments," said Watson. "A hidden advantage of the surrogate munition is that it is better than using the real rounds, because it eliminates range safety issues."

Mannix and Watson reached out to engineers at Picatinny Arsenal and item mangers at the Air Force Ogden Air Logistics Center to acquire the munitions at a reduced cost.

As a result, Mannix and Watson gained the Air Force item manager's approval and acquired 1,150 munitions for the GCV ammo compartment experimentation at a total cost of $2,700. The savings to the GCV program is valued at more than $2 million.

"The assistance we received from Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey and Hill Air Force Base in Utah was incredible," said Mannix. "They were extremely collaborative and agreed to provide the munitions for the shipping costs."

The surrogate ammunition arrived at Aberdeen Proving Ground on June 8. Mannix said the test rigs have been fabricated and integrated to existing range infrastructure and that the instrumentation is available.

"I'm confident our engineers, analysts, and range technicians will bring the state-of-the-art forward yielding improved infantry fighting vehicle ammo compartment survivability for our Soldiers," said Mannix.

Watson said that the initial experiments will be a parametric study where a matrix of experiments will be performed.

"In this matrix, both the treat energy and the quantity of 30 mm ammunition will be varied while the blast output is measured," said Watson. "The blast information will then allow the SLAD analysts to determine the level of reaction a compartment will experience for a variety of configurations, shot-lines and threat energy inputs. They will be able to effectively analyze and critique competing contractor designs while making suggestions for improvements."

The larger follow-on experiments will also be a parametric study where compartment parameters (vent size, free volume, etc.) will be varied. The need for buffers and anti-fratricide bars between the ammunition components will also be investigated at this time to determine what is necessary to mitigate the reaction to its minimum level by preventing the sympathetic response between munitions in the compartment.

"Once completed, this study will produce the information that will enable the engineers to design a vehicle that has the best vehicle vulnerability and crew survivability characteristics possible to protect our troops while they are fighting," said Watson.

Page last updated Mon July 9th, 2012 at 14:00