Watervliet Arsenal turns to allied armies to sustain its critical skills

By John B. Snyder, Watervliet Arsenal Public AffairsFebruary 23, 2017

usa image
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Spc. James Drake (right), mortarman with 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, fires an 81mm mortar round, November 7, 2016 at Fort Stewart, Ga. Mortarmen and artillerymen supported forward obs... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
usa image
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
usa image
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (Feb. 22, 2017) -- As decreases to the Army's budgets in recent years have reduced the requirements for military hardware, the arsenal is now finding great success selling its products to allied armies as a way to sustain its critical manufacturing capability.

For the arsenal to retain its worldwide status as a center of technical excellence for large caliber weapons manufacturing, it must maintain a highly trained workforce that can execute all critical manufacturing skills. In recent years, however, the arsenal leadership has found it very challenging to maintain a high level of expertise in core critical manufacturing skills due to the reduced workload that came from declining defense budgets.

As an effort to counter any erosion of skills, the arsenal has aggressively worked with the Army's weapon program managers, the Army's Security Assistance Command, and private industry to help fill in the gaps to workload by looking at overseas markets. And the results of these teaming efforts have been staggering.

This week, the arsenal finalized a $4.4 million contract to provide the Australian army with nearly 200 mortar systems, adding to a $47 million contract that was announced last month to provide the Indian army with 145 howitzer cannon systems. Since the Indian order was announced, the arsenal has received another contract, valued at $2.9 million, to support the Indian army with additional spare parts.

To put the size of these foreign contracts into perspective, the arsenal achieved only $1.7 million in foreign military sales for fiscal 2016, which ended last September. It now has obtained more than $55 million in foreign military sales contracts in just the last 30 days.

"Although we have supported foreign militaries for decades, the recent arrival of $55 million in foreign military sales contracts speaks volume about the arsenal's coming of age on the world's stage," said Joseph Turcotte, the arsenal's deputy commander. "We are hopeful that we will land more multimillion-dollar contracts with allied armies as they learn more about our highly-specialized capability and capacity."

According to Thomas Pond, the arsenal's director of operations, these sales will significantly contribute to the arsenal's long-term viability by sustaining highly skilled jobs that are required to support the needs of U.S. forces.

"The value of large-scale contracts cannot be overstated," Pond said. "The size and scope of these foreign military contracts will help ensure that critical manufacturing skills are maintained here for future U.S. defense requirements."

Due to the long-lead time to get raw materiel, the arsenal will not deliver its first mortar system to Australia until fiscal year 2019 and will complete the order the same year. The first cannon shipment for India will not occur until fiscal year 2019 and final shipment will be in fiscal year 2020. The fiscal year begins on October 1 of the previous year.

The U.S. State Department manages the foreign military sales program and works closely with the Department of Defense to resource the requirements. These proposed sales will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of the nation's allies.

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 maximum range of about 5,700 meters.

The arsenal's contract for 145 howitzer cannon systems is part of a $737 million foreign military sales contract that BAE Systems has with the Indian government. Under the contract, the arsenal will manufacture 155 mm-barrels and associated parts that will become an integral part of the M777A2 lightweight howitzer system that India will purchase from BAE.

According to BAE, the M777A2 howitzer is highly portable by land, sea and air, and the system has a maximum indirect fire range greater than 30,000 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.

Related Links:

Watervliet Arsenal Twitter Page

Watervliet Arsenal January 2017 Newsletter

Watervliet Arsenal Facebook Page

Watervliet Arsenal Flickr Page