By Ed LopezzApril 23, 2019
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. -- Richard Fong, a world-renowned expert in warhead technologies, retired Feb. 26 after 41 years of service during a ceremony at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center at Picatinny Arsenal.
As the Senior Research Scientist for Warhead Technology, Fong was responsible for the Army's research and development of shaped charge, explosively formed penetrators (EFP) and fragmentation warhead technology.
"I'm deeply honored and humble to be part of this great institution," Fong said. "I'm deeply honored to be given the opportunity to serve our men and women in the military who protect our nation, freedom, and keep us safe."
Fong expressed confidence that the team he helped to develop and leaves behind at the Armaments Center warhead division is fully capable of continuing its vital mission
"The fact that we have world-recognized warhead team engineers and scientists here is not an accident," Fong said. "We are very fortunate to have senior leaders and directors, general officers in the Army, and within DOD, who all recognize the importance of having a world-class warhead design team. All agree it's an Army core competency that must be maintained."
The decision to retire was the most difficult decision that he's had to make in his career, Fong told the audience.
"I hope you all would agree with me that anyone who worked in the same job, doing research and development in one tech area for almost 41 years, is either crazy or he really really loves his job. I can honestly say I really really, love my job," Fong said, adding, "And I'm a little crazy."
Fong played an important, often critical, role in essentially all of the advances in U.S. warhead technology over the last two decades. He was known for his quick, proactive pursuit of novel and actionable ideas to counter emerging threats.
PERSISTENCE YIELDS A CLUE
Fong expressed gratitude to all the mentors he had over the years who taught him how to be a better researcher, ask the right questions, and to grow professionally.
"Their support and trust in me truly made a difference," Fong said. "I cannot thank them all enough."
Fong recounted the time when he attended an international ballistics conference and became so excited, "like a kid in a candy store," when Klaus Weinmann, a renowned warhead researcher from Germany EMI, displayed an explosively formed penetrator that had fins, something Fong did not know was possible.
An explosively formed penetrator--also known as an explosively formed projectile or a self-forging warhead--is a special type of shaped charge designed to penetrate armor effectively. Fins improve aerodynamic stability and hit accuracy.
Intrigued by Weinmann's achievement, Fong kept circling the display table and repeatedly asked how the fins were created. What was the trade secret?
Finally, Fong recounted, apparently to get rid of Fong, Weinmann told him that he had used chewing gum to form the fins.
Fong pursued the hint from Weinmann. "I understood what he was trying to tell me," Fong said. "I figured it out."
At a later ballistics conference, Fong saw Weinmann once more. "I thanked him for the chewing gum hint and told him I figured it out, Fong recalled, and showed him a photo of an explosively formed penetrator with multiple canted fins.
"From the look in his eye, I knew he was dying to ask me how I formed the canted fins," Fong said. "He being the professor, did not ask the student how it was done," he added.
Instead, Weinmann said, "Hey Richie, why don't we do a joint paper on the canted fin EFP at the next international ballistics conference," Fong remembered.
"At that moment, I knew I had earned the respect from this world-recognized expert in EFP warhead design."
Fong said he recounts the story of the chewing gum hint from Weinmann to other researchers and his three daughters to illustrate that respect is not an entitlement, but something to be attained through hard work.
Fong also spoke about the importance of his family, and the pride he has for this three daughters.
"I would like to recognize the most important person in my life," Fong said. "I want to thank my lovely wife, Grace, my love and soul mate, who helped me raise our three wonderful girls while working on her own career. I could not have made it through this long journey without the support, commitment and love."
The CCDC Armaments Center is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, CCDC leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation's wars and come home safely. CCDC is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.