WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (November 29, 2016) -- The Watervliet Arsenal today announced that it has received a $8.5 million contract to manufacture a new lightweight 81 mm mortar bipod for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps.

This next generation mortar bipod will add more than 23,000 hours of direct labor and thousands of hours of indirect labor in fiscal years 2019 and 2020, said Edward Stewart, the arsenal's program manager for this system.

Stewart said the first shipment of bipods is scheduled to leave the arsenal in February 2019 and the order should be complete by March 2020. Each bipod consists of about 25 close-tolerance, machined parts, and will weigh approximately 22 pounds, as compared to the 27 pounds of the legacy system.

Although the arsenal has been manufacturing mortar bipods for more than 70 years, this new product line has significant challenges over the legacy system, said Tom Pond, the arsenal's director of operations.

"Many of the individual parts will be made using lightweight materials, such as Kevlar, Teflon, and Titanium, which have never before been used here for mortar production," Pond said. "In addition to new materials, new processes and tooling will need to be developed."

Pond added that production of a new product line benefits the arsenal far beyond simply increasing revenue at a time of decreasing defense requirements.

"To support the startup of this production line, the Army has invested more than $1 million in new machinery, tooling, and for training," Pond said. "This enhanced manufacturing capability may and will be leveraged to go after other defense and non-defense product lines to shore up our workload in future fiscal years."

The 81 mm mortar system is used primarily by the infantry as an indirect fire weapon when a high-angle trajectory is required to hit enemy troops, materiel, and positions. It has a range that exceeds 5,800 meters.

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 had $138 million in revenue in 2015 and has an annual economic benefit to the local community in excess of $90 million.