Crane Army Turns Concept into Capability

By Capt. Amy CraneApril 11, 2019

Crane Army Turns Concept into Capability
Crane Army Ammunition Activity Fabrication Shop Supervisor Austin Harris lifts a water tank to test two M1121 canisters using the new pressure testing system. The system checks for leaks by measuring the pressure in the canisters with a pressure gaug... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

CRANE, Ind. - Modernization is a top priority as Crane Army maintains its excellence and relevance to the Warfighter. Employees at the Crane Army Fabrication Shop are no strangers to designing tools to create better, newer products for CAAA, other Army installations, the Navy and other organizations.

Among the many items manufactured at the Crane Army Fabrication Shop are M1121 canisters for 155 ammunition rounds. These canisters contain white phosphorus, a flammable material used in illumination, smoke and incendiary munitions.

M1121 canisters are made at Crane Army from start to finish and must be tested for specific welding standards prior to use. The Fabrication Shop acquired a robotic welding machine to meet the demand for canisters and loaded 600 of them through the welding process.

The robotic welding machine produced 600 identical canisters. However, the welding design had a programming defect. The robotic welder functioned perfectly- it followed the design as programmed when it made the canisters, including the defect.

To refurbish the canisters for use, the Fabrication Shop needed the capability to test the canisters for leaks and find the defect. To do that, the operators needed to perform pressure tests to determine where the canisters leaked but a pressure test system did not currently exist.

In two weeks a team of Crane Army engineers, including Joe Applegate, Jonathan Miller and Austin Harris developed a complete, functioning pressure test system. Harris, the Fabrication Shop supervisor, applauded the team effort that made the design concept a reality.

"Joe Applegate made it work in a production environment," Harris said. "I told him what I needed, he made it happen and designed a way to make it work. It's all about teamwork, all have the same end goal. The real story is how well we work together to provide the customer their need and specific requirements."

The new pressure testing system checks for leaks by measuring the pressure in the canisters with a pressure gauge or by immersing them in water. A fluctuating measurement on the gauge or the presence of bubbles from canisters immersed in water indicates the presence of a leak.

Bringing the new system online was just another day at Crane Army for Harris.

"This is pretty typical of the work and the people here at CAAA," Harris said. "It's pretty awesome here at the shop- if there's a drilling requirement or tooling needed, we make it happen."

Crane Army's mission is to provide conventional munitions support for 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.