KINGSPORT, Tenn. -- Since the 1940s, Holston Army Ammunition Plant has been an exclusive source of Research Development Explosive (RDX) and High-Melting Explosive (HMX) based formulations. Staff members for both the government and operating contractor, BAE Systems, boast of the efficiency and safety with which HSAAP has historically produced these explosive ingredients which fill today's military weapons both at home and abroad.

However, in addition to maintaining this level of safety and success, leaders from BAE Systems and the HSAAP government staff also understand the importance of improving, increasing, and modernizing production for the evolving defense industry.

"Modernization is essential to Holston's success, providing needed improvements over its 1942 infrastructure," states Joe Kennedy, commander's representative for HSAAP.

With modernization in mind, a team consisting of the Project Director for Joint Services, the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), Joint Munitions Command (JMC), Holston's government staff, and BAE Systems assembled to conduct a major overhaul one of the site's most progressive production processes--making melt-cast explosives.

David Sutherland, BAE's lead mechanical engineer for the melt-cast project, explains that upgrades to the facility's equipment improve both the quality and safety of the product.

"The modernization efforts at [our melt-cast facility] provide HSAAP with the ability to more effectively and efficiently manufacture the new generation of insensitive munitions explosives," Sutherland states. "These new explosives provide the Warfighter with safer products, which ultimately save lives."

The process of making melt-cast explosives involves combining molten, highly-sensitive ingredients into a homogenous mixture, which is then cooled, creating a solid, less sensitive explosive product. This insensitive munitions explosive (IMX), a relatively new and progressive frontier for the defense industry, requires more deliberate activation by the end user, meaning safer, more precise training and combat for the Warfighter.

Kennedy adds, "Part of our plan for transition from RDX-based and HMX-based explosives to IMX products is the upgrading and expanding of production volume, as in the modernization of the melt-cast facility. This transition involves using new technologies and automation systems as well as improving the occupational health and safety of our employees."

"The project to modernize [the melt-cast facility] was initiated in 2011, with construction beginning in May of 2011 and ending in October of 2012. First Article Testing is ongoing as we speak," adds Chris Rodgers, industrial engineer for the HSAAP government staff.

The melt-cast facility at Holston produces the relatively new IMX, which combines molten TNT and RDX to create a solid material. The project includes new kettles for melting and pouring, a new casting belt with improved metering, and an enhanced cooling system. In addition, the updated facility also allows for production of new and yet-to-be developed melt-cast explosives as those formulations become available.

Holston Army Ammunition Plant is a government-owned, contractor- operated facility located in Kingsport, Tenn. Since 1942, HSAAP has produced chemical explosives in support of our service members and currently produces explosive fills for every type of ordnance used by the United States Department of Defense.

HSAAP is a subordinate installation of the Joint Munitions Command. From its headquarters at the Rock Island Arsenal, JMC operates a nationwide network of conventional ammunition manufacturing plants and storage depots, and provides on-site ammunition experts to U.S. combat units wherever they are stationed or deployed. JMC's customers are U.S. forces of all military services, other U.S. government agencies and allied nations.