NATICK, Mass. -- Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center initiated an Immediate-Action prototyping effort in support of Soldiers in Operation Enduring Freedom. The result is the High-Capacity Ammunition Carriage System which enables a machine gunner to carry and fire up to 500 rounds of linked ammunition from a rucksack-like carrier.

After Staff Sgt. Vincent Winkowski and fellow members of the 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment of the Iowa National Guard originally rigged their own prototype design, it took NSRDEC a mere 48 days to build and send their working High Capacity Ammunition Carrying System prototype back to the unit in Afghanistan for further field assessment.

The Research, Development, and Engineering Command Science and Technology Assistance Team (STAT), located in the field, which included Lt. Col. Scot Greig Sgt. 1st class and Clayton Vanlangendonck, who identified this capability being used in theatre and sent the Request for Information to NSRDEC's Quick Reaction Cell on March 31.

The initial concept was field-crafted in OEF by a Soldier who used obsolete load carriage frames and harnesses, spare parts, and readily available dunnage held together by bungee cords and nylon zip ties.

This effort was possible through the collaboration of NSRDEC QRC and support of many teams including Warfighter Protection and Aerial Delivery Directorate, PEO Soldier, Armament Research Development and Engineering Center, Tactical Communications Integrated Logistics Support Center, and Army Test and Evaluation Command Developmental Test Command.

“This team effort embodies everything that we aspire to do here at Natick. This project is a reflection of that dedication. Everybody pitched in and worked hard to turn this around,” said David Roy, QRC current operations analyst.

The original prototype designed by the Soldier involved the use of All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment and was substituted with components of the Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment, which is presently fielded.

"We're calling the Ammunition Carrier the ‘Ironman’ to honor the ingenuity of the Soldiers in Task Force Ironman that made it all happen by building what they needed using spare parts and ammo cans,” said Sam Newland, NSRDEC Quick Reaction coordinator.

By April 5 the immediate-action project commenced with QRC in charge. From the project’s commencement to the start of the project to the first available test prototype only 21 days had passed. On April 28 ARDEC Armament Testing Facility conducted live fire testing and on May 5 NSRDEC QRC notified the Training and Doctrine Command, Army Capabilities Integration Center, and the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellent Soldier Requirements Division of potential emerging capability needs and the need for high capacity ammunition carriers based on the Ironman design.

The capability need in the RFI described an inability to provide sustained rate-of-fire due to need for reloading after 100 rounds. The High Capacity Ammunition Carrying System is able to hold up to 500 rounds of continuous ammunition fed directly to the machine gun from the wearer’s back.

“This reduces the potential for reloading stoppages and increases the machine gunner’s ability to provide a steady rate-of-fire on enemy targets,” Newland said.

NSRDEC QRC’s mission is to recognize and act on opportunities to improve Soldier tactical capabilities and support RDECOM’s ability to provide Science and Technology solutions in the Soldier Domain. The Ironman prototype was delivered to TR Ironman Recon Platoon in OEF for evaluation on May 30 and since then reports from the field have been positive. Soldiers have already provided NSRDEC with feedback to improve the Ironman prototype.

“We are working on some of the design refinements one step at a time to provide a solution to all of those requirements. That will require continued participation and time from ARDEC and RDECOM,” Roy said.

Further refinements are pending while field-testing continues. Currently, a Technical Data Package is being developed for the Ironman prototype. The project goal is that Ironman will be produced by early in the fiscal year 2012.