By Ms. Tracy Robillard (AMC)September 13, 2010
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - Anyone familiar with the military's acquisition process knows it takes a huge team effort from people and organizations, both federal and private, to take an idea from concept to reality.
The recent success story at Picatinny to research and qualify a new, safer explosive to replace TNT is one example of how teamwork and collaboration can help provide a life-saving product to the warfighter as quickly as possible.
This new product, called IMX-101 (Insensitive Munitions Explosive 101), will be loaded into 155mm M795 projectiles for Army and Marines as early as next year, thanks to a massive team effort to expedite research and development.
"It normally takes four or five years to qualify a new round such as the M795 with a novel explosive like IMX-101, but this group of professionals did it in about 24 months," said Anthony Di Stasio, lead project officer with the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) here.
Charlie Patel, program management engineer with Project Manager, Combat Ammunition Systems (PM-CAS), agrees. "It was truly a joint-service effort. All the organizations involved helped us to accelerate the project so we could get it to the warfighter quicker."
The explosive was recently awarded first place in the new materials category of the 2010 Defense News Technology and Innovation Awards. Its developers were also recognized for the achievement.
IMX-101 was selected from more than 80 nominations of products that came to market in the past year. The material was selected for its advancement in the field of ammunitions, cost savings and it benefits to the warfighter, according to Defense News.
The priority for developing this award-winning project was recognized from the top of the Department of Defense, starting with the Office of the Secretary of Defense - Technology Transition Office, which listed the project as their number one priority program, Di Stasio said.
Other key contributors to the project include the Project Executive Office for Ammunition (PEO Ammo) and PM-CAS, as well as ARDEC, the Army Research Laboratory, BAE Corporation and the Joint Insensitive Munitions Technology Program (JIMTP).
"The teamwork on this effort was some of the best I have ever seen," said Patrick J. Baker, lead project officer for JIMTIP. "It shows what a diverse technical team that includes labs, centers, industry and PMs can accomplish."
Baker said JIMTP was strongly interested in the program because it had high potential for transition to the field because both the Army and Marine Corps were providing funding.
"Transitions are difficult and sometimes costly. The leveraging of dollars can really pay off in driving out risk and overcoming technical hurdles that are bound to arise with any technology," Baker said.
The team tested the new explosive and rounds all over the country in 12 different states, working with partners from all branches of the military.
"We worked with installations and facilities from all services-it was a total team effort," said Philip Samuels, ARDEC chemical engineer. "We did tests at Air Force and Navy bases, as well as Army and Marines facilities. The drive to work together and finish the project was contagious."
Not only were the rounds tested at joint-service facilities, they were also designed with one-on-one collaboration with the warfighter.
"We've had Marine's with us every step of the way. If we changed anything, we consulted them first and got their feedback," Samuels said.
One example of how the team responded to customer needs is the development of a meltable fuze plug on the 155mm M795 artillery round.
The old plug was made of steel, but it did not meet all the insensitive munitions requirements.
"We needed a plug that could melt off when the explosive was heated, but the Marines really wanted us to keep the curved handle on it because they use it to grab the round when they load it in the field," Di Stasio said.
The team developed seven versions of the plug , each time going back to the users for their opinion.
"This was the least complicated piece to make in the project, but it's the one we redesigned the most times," Di Stasio said.
Despite all the challenges and obstacles, the team persevered.
"Being able to accomplish this in less than half the typical R&D cycle time is a tribute to the Joint-Service Integrated Product Team," Patel said.
Read more on IMX-101 on Army.mil