By John B. SnyderApril 2, 2014
WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (April 2, 2014) -- The Watervliet Arsenal announced today that is has received two contracts worth more than $6.7 million to provide the U.S. Army with 39 120 mm tank barrels and inspection services for 500 120 mm Stryker mortar barrels. With today's announcement, the arsenal has in the last 60 days received more than $18 million in new orders.
"These multimillion dollar orders will add to our current workload more than 11,900 hours of direct labor," said Ray Gaston, the arsenal's former chief of production planning and control. "What makes these orders so important is that they highlight the arsenal's critical skills in regards to machining and quality control."
The Abrams tank barrels require hundreds of individual machining operations that often have tolerances in the tens of thousandths of an inch, Gaston said. Just about every critical machining operation, from the rotary forge to computerized lathes to specialized painting, will be challenged to produce the finest tank cannon in the world.
According to Tom Buckton, the arsenal's program manager for the $4.6 million tank barrel order, the barrels are for the U.S. Army's TACOM Life Cycle Management Command and will eventually be fielded on Abrams tanks in the U.S. and in foreign militaries. Work will begin immediately using pre-positioned barrel forgings and initial delivery is set for August 2014 and the order should be complete by March 2015.
Bruce Pienkoski, the project manager for the $2.1 million Stryker barrel inspection order, said the 120 mm barrels, which had been fielded by a different manufacture, will undergo multiple quality control inspections that can only be found at the Watervliet Arsenal.
"Every mortar tube we inspect typically goes through three magnetic-particle inspections to ensure serviceability," Pienkoski said. "What will be different with this service is that in April we will bring on line a unique quality control capability called ultrasonic immersion testing."
Ultrasonic machines pulse ultrasound waves through water into a mortar tube and will detect indications of a defect down to ten-thousandths of an inch in length and five-thousandths of an inch in depth.
The fact that the arsenal is inspecting weapon systems that have been previously fielded is not new, Pienkoski said. The Army has traditionally called on the arsenal's unique quality control capability to verify the serviceability of weapon systems that have been in use by Soldiers.
Sometimes, Army program managers are simply trying to make a determination as to when barrels may need to be replaced. The inspection process provides the program manager a current status of the tube's serviceability life.
Pienkoski said the inspection of the 500 barrels should be complete in 2016.
The Watervliet Arsenal is an Army-owned-and-operated manufacturing facility and is the oldest, continuously active arsenal in the United States having begun operations during the War of 1812. It celebrated its 200th anniversary in July 2013.
Today's arsenal is relied upon by U.S. and foreign militaries to produce the most advanced, high-tech, high-powered weaponry for cannon, howitzer, and mortar systems. This National Historic Registered Landmark has an annual economic benefit to the local community in excess of $100 million.