WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (Feb. 19, 2015) -- The Arsenal announced this week that it has received $15 million in new contracts to provide the U.S. Army with tank tubes, breech blocks, and breech mechanism assemblies as part of the Army's efforts to upgrade several hundred Abrams main battle tanks.

Tom Pond, the Arsenal's director of operations, said that although the Arsenal has a long history of manufacturing parts for U.S. tanks, this order came in as a pleasant surprise given the current environment of declining defense dollars.

"When the Budget Control Act of 2011 was implemented in 2013, by the way of sequestration, the effects had an immediate and negative impact in regards to the amount of work the Arsenal had on its books," Pond said. "Sequestration caused a great deal of fiscal uncertainty within the Army, which then caused weapon program managers to either reduce orders or to not award contracts at all."

What this work means to the Arsenal is that over the course of the next few years the Arsenal will have an additional 40,000 hours of direct labor requirements, which does not include several thousand hours of indirect labor that will also be tied to these orders, Pond added.

Production for the barrels will begin this year, but due to the long lead time for raw materials, production for the breech blocks and mechanisms will not start until 2016.

Despite the importance of increased revenue in an era of declining budgets there is an added benefit to these orders that is unique to Watervliet.

"Although we now celebrate all orders, big or small, these large orders are key to our retaining a critical manufacturing skill base for our nation," said Mary Fischer, the Arsenal's program manager for the order. "The Defense Department expects the Arsenal to retain a high degree of expertise in 11 critical skills that are required to manufacture large caliber weapon systems for our troops."

To the Arsenal workforce all work is not equal, Fischer said. For these orders, the workforce will exercise all 11 critical manufacturing skills, which range from rotary forging to heat treatment to complex machining, whereas other production requirements, such as mortar production, may only exercise seven of the 11 critical skills.

The upgrade to the Abrams tanks is the result of great research and design work done by the Army's Benét Laboratories, which is located on the Watervliet Arsenal. Benét has designed an Ammunition Data Link for the Abrams tank that will provide the tank crew the ability to fire the Advanced Multi-Purpose (AMP) and M829A4 Advanced Kinetic Energy (AKE) rounds.

This ADL is an electronic signal pathway from the fire control processor to a chambered programmable tank round. The portion of the pathway designed by Benét Laboratories carries the signal from turret signal network to the rear face of the chambered round.

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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.

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.

The Watervliet Arsenal is the only place in the Department of Defense where those who do military weapons research and design work (Benét Laboratories) are within a five-minute walk of those who will machine the design (Arsenal manufacturing). This synergy provides an environment of rapid response to the emerging needs of today's Army.