Arsenal receives $1.3M to upgrade Army howitzers

Arsenal metal processor Sean Stephenson applies resin to seal in the composite winding on 120mm bore evacuators. (U.S. Army photo by John B. Snyder)

By John B. Snyder, Watervliet Arsenal

WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (Oct. 30, 2015) — Former Army Secretary John M. McHugh said earlier this year that the way ahead for the Army is to build weapon systems that can be incrementally upgraded to adapt to the realities of the day, but the Watervliet Arsenal isn’t waiting for the future as it is already modifying current weapon systems for the realities of today.

The Arsenal announced today that it has received orders totaling nearly $1.3 million to provide the Army with a new, lightweight bore evacuator for the self-propelled howitzer system, the M109A7. The M109 series howitzer was originally fielded throughout the Army decades ago.

This new evacuator will reduce the weight of the current version, which is made from steel, from 203 pounds to about 110 pounds for the new fiberglass version. Making the gun system lighter is only secondary, however, to the effect of making a rather difficult maintenance job much easier for the artillerymen.

What is also great about going after “incremental” improvements, such as what McHugh suggested, is that the arsenal can field a new product that will provide dramatic improvements for the Soldier in a significantly reduced acquisition window. Continue reading

Hold the batteries! Benet Labs engineers awarded “round counter” patent

(From left) Mark Doxbeck, Andrew Littlefield and Mark Johnson of Benet Laboratories worked on a battery-less round counter project that recently won a U.S. Army Research and Development Achievement Award. The Benet Laboratories team is part of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), headquartered at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.

With each round fired from a mortar or a gun tube, the weapon inches closer to its demise.

When each round is fired, damage accumulates in the tube. Reach a certain threshold and the tube may fail. “It could be catastrophic,” said Mark Johnson, electronics engineer with the Benet Laboratories, Armament Technologies Division at the Watervliet Arsenal in N.Y.

To avoid gun-tube failures that could harm U.S. Warfighters, the Army performs fatigue tests before fielding the guns and mortars. The goal is to determine the service life of a weapon so it can be retired from service before it can endanger troops. This is often accomplished by counting rounds fired from the gun tube.

As a result, U.S. service members have used paper cards since the 1950s to keep track of how many rounds are fired from gun tubes, according to Andrew Littlefield, a mechanical engineer who works at the same division of the U.S. Army Armaments Research and Development Center.  The problem: “They sometimes lose the cards,” he said.

A team with the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), developed a solution to this problem – a battery-less electronic round counter, powered by piezo-ceramic technology. Not only did the project receive a patent in May, but it was also one of eight ARDEC projects to earn a 2009 Army Research & Development Achievement Award.

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8 award-winning ARDEC projects make scientific advancements

This tactical wheeled vehicle demonstrator is equipped with the I-20 expedient materiel solution, which protects key area of the vehicle from the new and emerging threats, including explosively formed projectiles. The I-20 materiel solution was one of eight ARDEC projects recognized in the Army Research and Development Achievement Awards. U.S. Army photo.

Twenty-eight scientists and engineers with the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) were named Aug. 24 as recipients of the 2009 Army Research and Development Achievement Award for eight key projects that have shown great advancements in military science and engineering. These ARDEC engineers work at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., and Benet Laboratories at Watervliet Arsenal, N.Y.

  • I-20 Expedient Materiel Solution. This new vehicle armor is made with an ultra-high-strength composite material that greatly increases the survivability of many current wheeled combat vehicles by protecting key areas of the vehicles.
  • Lethal Unmanned Aerial System. This unmanned aerial system is not only man-portable but capable of delivering a warhead on target with advanced fuze technologies.
  • Dual Color Optical Retroscope. This tool detects optical elements like telescopes and cameras which are indicators of enemy positions.
  • Advance Hardened Combined Effects Warhead for the Medium Range Munition.  This new technology combines the heavy armor penetration ability of a shaped charge with a “bash-through” capability of a hardened warhead, giving the Soldier a wider range of performance against various targets.
  • Reduced Sensitivity Explosives to Replace TNT and Composition B. This new, more stable explosive designed to eventually replace traditional TNT is far less likely to explode if shot or hit by roadside bomb fragments during transportation or while in storage.
  • Green Detonator: The First Lead-Free STAB Initiation Mixture. This compound was designed to completely replace the hazardous heavy metal compounds, lead azide and lead styphnate, in the initiating charge of the widely-used M55 detonator.
  • Explosive Bonding and Machining Technologies. This new gun bore lining and bonding process will replace the conventional chrome plating of gun barrels that involves biologically hazardous hexavalent chrome, which also enables increased muzzle velocity.
  • Energy-Harvesting Electronic Round Counter. This system used advanced piezo-ceramic technology that counts the number of rounds fired by gun and mortar tubes without the use of a battery.

Check out the full story on these ARDEC technologies and how they help the warfighter