By Argie Sarantinos, CCDC Public AffairsDecember 11, 2019
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Vehicle launched obscurant grenades can be an effective countermeasure against many advanced threats on the battlefield. With many systems fielded internationally, finding the highest performing system is a priority for the Army.
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Chemical Biological Center teamed with the U.S. Army Foreign Comparative Testing Program recently to test several obscurant grenades during a VIP demo day. The grenades tested include: the Germany Rheinmetall's Rapid Obscuring System; the French Lacroix Galix system; and the U.S. M76.
"The grenades we tested are some of the most commercially available and fielded vehicle launched smoke grenades in the world. Many countries have fielded these systems, which indicates the technologies may have the potential to provide an acceptable level of protection," said John D'Agostino, CBC mechanical engineer.
Each system was mounted on a M2A3 Bradley, then deployed and measured using various imagers and instruments.
The obscurant grenades were evaluated using three quantitative metrics: Effective Screening Area; screening duration; and time to effective obscuration. The ESA calculates the cloud area over time and accounts for changes in weather conditions. The screening duration measures the length of time the target area is obscured. The time to effective obscuration examines how long it takes to establish an effective screen.
The Office of the Secretary of Defense funded the demo day, which was held at M-Field on Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. M-field is a dedicated test range outfitted to effectively and consistently assess obscurants. CBC partnered with CCDC Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, Georgia Tech Research Institute, and Aberdeen Test Center to test the obscurant grenades. More than 60 people attended the event, including Foreign Liaison Officers from Canada, Germany and Australia, as well as representatives from Rheinmetall and Lacroix.
"Many attendees had never seen these technologies in person, so this was a valuable opportunity to showcase the technologies, as well as the field testing capabilities at CBC M-Field," D'Agostino said.
The FCT program helped to kick off and add additional obscurant grenades to the scope of the project before the final testing was held. This allowed for the largest sample size of candidate technologies to be evaluated. The FCT office also assisted with logistical challenges the team encountered during the effort.
Obscurant grenades are a cost effective countermeasure for a wide range of threats from rifles to advanced guided weapons. Each obscurant grenade tested had several distinguishing features, including the caliber of the grenades -- the German ROSY uses 40 mm caliber grenades; the French Galix 13 uses 80 mm caliber grenades; and the U.S. system uses 66 mm caliber grenades. While the larger caliber grenades offer more payload, they have more recoil force and typically cost more to purchase.
The grenades also differed in obscurant fill material. A high-performing material is crucial to maintain an effective obscurant screen in the visible to infrared regions in the electromagnetic spectrum. The obscurant material fills inside the grenades tested were red phosphorous, brass and pyrotechnic smoke canisters.
The goal of this test was to determine which technologies can meet requirements for the Army's highest priorities, including the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle.
"The knowledge gained from the FCT program will be shared among various DOD organizations," D'Agostino said.
Reports generated from this test will be sent to Product Manager Vehicle Protection Systems, which is the sponsoring PM that will make a procurement decision about the obscurant grenades. While the technologies fulfill several Army requirements, PdM Vehicle Protection Systems may request more testing and modeling to answer threat specific questions that were not addressed during the recent testing.
CBC is also working on developing a NATO Standardization Agreement for this type of testing, which will define processes, procedures, and terms and conditions for common military and technical procedures and equipment between member countries in the alliance.
The FCT program is a congressionally authorized program that is executed for the Army by the CCDC Global Technology Office, which receives oversight from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Comparative Technology Office. The FCT Program provides an avenue for Army engineers, scientists and program managers to acquire, test, and evaluate items and technologies from foreign industry allies and other friendly nations that may fill an Army capability gap or other urgent need.
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC), formerly known as the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), has the mission to lead 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. The command collaborates across the Future Force Modernization Enterprise and its own global network of domestic and international partners in academia, industry and other government agencies to accomplish this mission. CCDC is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.