By Raeanna MorganJanuary 24, 2018
CRANE, Ind. - Everything has an expiration date including ammunition. While sitting in storage at Letterkenny Munitions Center, 58,000 Mk 26 igniters, which initiate a guided missile launching system used by the Navy, reached their expiration date after 20 years. When this happened, the expired ammunition was set to be demilitarized so that it could no longer be used. In the case of the 58,000 Mk 26 igniters, though, not every part of the round had reached its expiration date. Realizing this, Crane Army and LEMC came together to figure out a way these igniters could be reworked and reused to solve an urgent readiness issue.
LEMC produces the Low Cost Reduced Range Practice Rocket, and until recently worked with a commercial contractor who supplied them with igniters for the rocket. Because of the technical challenges and contract issues, the supplier was unable to deliver, causing the igniter shortage.
"The lack of igniters brought production of the LCRPPR, not only at LEMC, but at the original equipment manufacturer as well, to a stop," Letterkenny's Deputy to the Commander Edward Averill said. "This caused a shortage for the Army and Marine Corps, as it had a negative impact on training for both services."
While on a visit to Letterkenny, CAAA Deputy to the Commander Norman Thomas discussed the issue of the current igniter producer with Averill. After being shown the igniters, Thomas thought there might be a way for Crane Army to either make new igniters or possibly refurbish the old ones.
"I knew that CAAA possessed a vast array of skilled artisans and capabilities to manufacture energetics and energetic components," Thomas said. "After our technical folks reviewed the energetic materials, they came up with a process to salvage many of the components, manufacture new filler material and reseal the units."
The Army uses the LCRPPR to conduct proper training of munitions handling, loading and fire control systems. In working together to bridge the supply gap, both CAAA and LEMC were able to achieve readiness quicker and cheaper, ultimately benefiting the warfighter.
"The benefit of this partnership is a reduction in a program cost and a more reliable source for parts in the future, which is an overall benefit to readiness for both Army and Marine Multiple Launch Rocket System artillery batteries," Averill said.
Mk 26 igniters are an essential part within the LCRPPR, so Crane agreed to assist with producing igniters for LEMC's mission. However, without more detailed plans it was not possible.
"When we realized we were unable to get that information to produce the igniter from scratch, one of our engineers pointed out that if the detonator, which is completely encapsulated in metal, is all sealed, then the rest of the material should still be good," Benstin said. "Those parts were all functioning, it was just the magnesium Teflon that wasn't working. So our engineer suggested just replacing the magnesium Teflon, and reworking the rest."
This method of refurbishing the igniters would work out well since CAAA had previously worked with magnesium Teflon on a different mission. So, the igniters that were marked for demilitarization were transferred to CAAA to be reworked and have their magnesium Teflon replaced. Over the summer of 2016, the first seven units were successfully tested at Redstone Arsenal.
"The first step was getting them here, and then after that it was just cutting the metal tube, cutting the top off, taking out the old composition, and filling it with new magnesium Teflon," Benstin said. "It sounds easy, but there's a lot of little steps involved. For example, we had to do a lot of new analysis of the material to make sure that it met performance requirements for the LCRRPR."
Speaking about CAAA's overall capabilities, Thomas added, "We are very adept at taking on a variety of programs of all sizes and making them a success."
What seemed like a small task was no small feat in terms of cost avoidance. CAAA calculated that if all of the available igniters were to be reworked it would generate cost savings to the government of approximately $12.5 million and provide enough inventory to supply training for the next 10 to 15 years.
Established Oct. 1977, Crane Army Ammunition Activity produces and provides conventional munitions requirements in support of U.S. Army and Joint Force readiness. It is one of 14 installations of the Joint Munitions Command and one of 23 organic industrial bases under the U.S. Army Materiel Command, which include arsenals, depots, activities and ammunition plants.