M14 grenade production starts after nine-year hiatus

By Rachel SelbyOctober 3, 2023

AN-M14 grenades are placed in cans during the fill and press operations, and then boxed in wooden crates.
1 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – AN-M14 grenades are placed in cans during the fill and press operations, and then boxed in wooden crates. (Photo Credit: Rachel Selby) VIEW ORIGINAL
Ammunition production operator Eric Jones works in one of the fill stations on the AN-M14 production line at Pine Bluff Arsenal. For safety, Jones wears personal protective equipment such as a mask due to the dust created by the mix.
2 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Ammunition production operator Eric Jones works in one of the fill stations on the AN-M14 production line at Pine Bluff Arsenal. For safety, Jones wears personal protective equipment such as a mask due to the dust created by the mix. (Photo Credit: Rachel Selby) VIEW ORIGINAL
AN-M14 grenades, after they have been stenciled, stand ready to be placed in cans at the end of the production line.
Thermate grenades can damage, immobilize, or destroy vehicles, weapons systems, shelters, or munitions. When the grenades are deployed, the thermate mix is converted to molten iron, burning at approximately 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
3 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – AN-M14 grenades, after they have been stenciled, stand ready to be placed in cans at the end of the production line.
Thermate grenades can damage, immobilize, or destroy vehicles, weapons systems, shelters, or munitions. When the grenades are deployed, the thermate mix is converted to molten iron, burning at approximately 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. (Photo Credit: Rachel Selby)
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Gordon White, AO engineering technician, stands at the top of grenade can press machine, as Randy Haynes, explosive operator, works the machine. White’s job has been a critical part of the start up of the line at the Arsenal.
4 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Gordon White, AO engineering technician, stands at the top of grenade can press machine, as Randy Haynes, explosive operator, works the machine. White’s job has been a critical part of the start up of the line at the Arsenal. (Photo Credit: Rachel Selby) VIEW ORIGINAL
Ammunitions production worker Cadiryus White puts the AN-M14 cans in clam shell molds at the beginning of the production line. These molds fit tight around the grenade cans so it creates a funnel when the mix is added. The mix is then pressed into the cans.
5 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Ammunitions production worker Cadiryus White puts the AN-M14 cans in clam shell molds at the beginning of the production line. These molds fit tight around the grenade cans so it creates a funnel when the mix is added. The mix is then pressed into the cans. (Photo Credit: Rachel Selby) VIEW ORIGINAL

Pine Bluff Arsenal’s Directorate of Ammunition Operations is once again making AN-M14 Thermate Grenades. This item has been historically made here, with drawings dating back to the 1960s, and production through the early 1990s. It was redesigned in the 2011 timeframe, and the last production run of these grenades was in 2014.

“There are always challenges when there are gaps in production runs like this, but this is the world we live in now with ammunition production,” said Don Scifres, AO director. “Realistically, the AN-M14 will probably never be an item with an annual requirement due to the way it is used. We are fortunate enough to have some of the same people here the last time it ran.”

Scifres said there is continuity with having a lot of the same engineers, technicians, operators, leaders, and supervisors, like himself, being here since the last time the product was made.

“This grenade is part of our portfolio, and we are proud to have it in there,” he said. “It isn’t a smoke item, but smoke is not all we do in Ammunition Operations. The Arsenal has a history going back to World War II with incendiary items, and this grenade is the only incendiary item we are currently still making for the Warfighter.”

Thermate hand grenades are typically used by the military in the partial destruction and disabling of equipment and artillery pieces. Thermate grenades can damage, immobilize, or destroy vehicles, weapons systems, shelters, or munitions. When the grenades are deployed, the thermate mix is converted to molten iron, burning at approximately 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This mixture, which produces its own oxygen and will burn under water, will fuse together the metallic parts of any object it encounters.

The Arsenal’s Directorate of Engineering and Technology have made several updates to the line.

“We developed a better supply chain of materials,” said Gary Jafar, E&T chemist. “It is becoming increasingly more difficult for the government to buy chemicals. We have been quite successful in procuring these items from here in the United States. This is a big thing. We do a lot of testing to validate using certain materials.”

Jafar said the production has also been streamlined since 2011 to the point where the mix can be made in a shorter amount of time.

“It used to take 24 to 36 hours to produce the mix. Pretty much an overnight process,” he said. “Now, because we produce part of the mix in house, we can use it as it is made. It takes approximately an hour and a half to produce the mix now. We have identified critical components that need to be tested, and our burn times are very consistent from batch to batch.”

Michael Michael, project engineer with E&T, said changing out certain things on the line has been beneficial, and environmentally friendly. “We took the barium and lead out of the product. The operators had to tweak the mixture a little bit, so it gave the same performance characteristics,” he said. “It still does the exact same thing.”

Controls on the production line were also changed out. “E&T had a project prior to the current production run to make needed updates on the grenade line after the last production run in 2014,” said Scifres. “The legacy Air Logic control for the pallets and pressing stations were changed to PLC control, and this has helped our efficiency greatly during the current production campaign.”

All the testing for the M14 is done here on the Arsenal.

“First Article Tests, lot acceptance, end of the line samples, mix samples and moisture samples are all done here,” said Michael. “LATs are done throughout the production cycle. Different things are lot determining. This can change when fuses, bodies, or lids are changed out. You try to get as many items in a lot as you can, so you aren’t wasting your viable production assets on testing. We are keeping them with this current run at approximately 10,000 per lot.”

According to Allen Huff, AO Production Chief, M14 production will conclude in October with approximately 72,000 grenades being made. “Thirty-five production operators work on this line. However, if you add in the mix operators, other engineers, quality personnel and others, it comes to about 45 people.”

The Arsenal is always interested in making other ammunition and incendiary products if the opportunity presents itself.

“The production personnel in Ammunition Operations are skilled in working across the different items from hand grenades to 155MM projectiles,” said Scifres. “The project managers at Combat Close Systems and Combat Ammunition Systems (both under the Joint Program Executive Office for Armaments and Ammunition) understand the importance of maintaining the skills needed to produce these different items.”