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REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (Nov. 30, 2021) – The Army’s strides towards modernization were on full display at Project Convergence 21.

Among the high-profile programs on hand was one tested at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center’s Ballistic Test Range for Aircraft Component Survivability.

“One of the pieces of technology demonstrated at PC21 was the XM915 developmental weapon Gatling gun that the DEVCOM Armaments Center is developing,” said Don Skrinjorich, chief, Technical Integration Division, in DEVCOM AvMC’s Technology Development Directorate. “We integrated that onto a UH-60 helicopter and performed some of the initial risk reduction ground-based testing of the gun at BTRACS.”

BTRACS develops and gunfire qualifies ballistic tolerant fuel containment systems and lightweight armor systems on its indoor range and two outdoor ranges.

“The XM915 20mm Cannon combines the combat-proven technologies associated with 20mm air to ground weapon system,” said Lt. Col. Mike McLean, Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft lead for the Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team. “The XM-915 effort integrates enhanced digital interfaces and reduced weight to provide FARA (Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft) with the most capable medium caliber area weapon system available.”

BTRACS, located at Fort Eustis, Virginia, played an integral part in making sure that the XM915 was ready for its time in the spotlight.

“The XM915 demonstration work that our teammates at TDD-A have executed this year has been nothing short of remarkable,” said Col. Greg Fortier, PEO Aviation project manager for FARA. “These type of risk reduction activities well left of Milestone B reduce cost and schedule while accelerating EMD qualification timelines.”

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The range is operated by a small crew of aviation experts who perform testing on not just Army aviation machines, but aircraft components from all branches of service. And no part is too small – BTRACS can test every aspect, from the windshield to even a rotary wing.

“We will take a perfectly good rotor blade and shoot it in a prescribed method or with a prescribed caliber of round, then we will take it to our structural lab to identify what its remaining strength is and if it could take the flight loads,” said Skrinjorich.

“We want to do things safely, so we start conservatively before testing it in our structures lab, where we will apply the flight loads to that rotor blade for thousands – maybe millions – of cycles. Then we will test it on the aircraft. That is part of our crawl – walk – run concept.”

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BTRACS tests components in all stages of development – from prototypes to aircraft already in utilization by the Warfighter. For the BTRACS team, the “why” remains at the forefront of why they do what they do.

“We all take this job very personal,” said Dr. Tim Davis, chief for the Engineering Test and Mission Assurance Branch, TDD-A. “I was a Soldier before becoming an engineer, I have several friends still in the Army and I have a son-in-law in the 10th Mountain Infantry Division, so this job is very personal. Everything we do here at the Aviation & Missile Center’s BTRACS is to protect the Soldiers and improve the tools they have at their disposal to execute their mission.”

“Whenever we have new employees that come into the organization, the one thing I try to tell them that I have learned in my 30 to 35 years here is to make this job personal,” Skrinjorich agreed. “It is not like going to work for a company or a business where profit is the bottom line. Our customer is very personal, because they are our Soldiers and they are defending our way of life.

“That is our bottom line.”

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The DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the Army’s research and development focal point for advanced technology in aviation and missile systems. It is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command. AvMC is responsible for delivering collaborative and innovative aviation and missile capabilities for responsive and cost-effective research, development and life cycle engineering solutions, as required by the Army’s strategic priorities and support to its Cross-Functional Teams.