The Joint Munitions Command is continuously pursuing efforts to reduce the demilitarization stockpile to promote readiness, safety and efficiency. Munitions items that cannot be demilitarized using current capabilities highlight gaps in the system. These capability gaps are included in the Demilitarization Research and Development program as future capability projects. The D561 (PROJ, 155mm High Explosive Anti-Personnel M449/449E1) and D562 (PROJ, 155mm High Explosive Anti-Personnel M449E2) Improved Conventional Munition Download Project significantly impacts JMC’s demilitarization and storage reform goals.
Roughly 52,000 short tons of D561 and D562 are in the demil stockpile, making those munitions the leading demilitarization stockpile items and the largest capability gap. The total includes almost 1 million 155 MM projectiles, each housing 60 submunitions. The submunitions are wedge-shaped and arranged inside the projectile body in ten layers of six. Each submunition has a pair of wings that spring out once dispensed from the projectile body. The extension of these wings allows the submunition to arm. This poses a safety hazard for download operations and greatly increases hazards associated with kick-outs (dangerous unexploded ordnance) from any open detonation attempts on full rounds.
The D561/D562 project seeks to eliminate these hazards while providing a safe, cost-effective and efficient solution to demil the projectiles. JMC’s Demilitarization Capabilities Division has worked with Sandia National Laboratories to develop a solution.
In FY 2018, SNL installed and successfully tested a pilot scale system at Hawthorne Army Depot. This system served as a test and prove-out platform for download of submunitions directly into cardboard tubes. These tubes, capped at both ends, are safely transported to HWAD’s OD range for disposal. Successful OD test shots verified the destructive effectiveness of the tube configuration, ensuring safe and complete destruction of each submunition.
In FY 2019, SNL began installation of the prototype system, incorporating lessons learned from the pilot system. This fully-automated process moves the projectiles via automated conveyance into an isolated cell. There the download equipment moves the munition into various stations and secures the projectile. This process pushes the payload of 60 submunitions free from the body and safely into a cardboard tube. A robotic arm stacks the tubes safely in a container for safe transfer to the OD range. The bodies and base plates are saved for future recycle.
The process is scheduled to undergo Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) during the fourth quarter of FY 2020. With successful LRIP, the operation will transition to production demil in the first quarter of FY 2021 with an anticipated operation throughput of 400 projectiles per 10-hour shift.
“This process provides safe, effective and sustainable demil for a large stockpile of items that weren’t designed or built with demil or disposal in mind,” said Dr. Keith Clift, chief, Demilitarization Capabilities Division. “The project is critical to the JMC strategic goal of reducing the demil stockpile to enable sustained outload readiness.”