Automated Demilitarization Process Estimated to Save Millions for DOD

By Jaime Thompson

Rarely does a process solve numerous problems at the same time, but the Improved Conventional Munitions Recycle, Recovery, and Reuse (ICM R3) Demilitarization (Demil) process not only helps to preserve and optimize Army Demil ranges, but also returns money to the Demil Enterprise.

The ICM R3 Demil process is the first fully automated R3 capability for the demilitarization of M42, M46, and M77 submunitions. It was developed by the Defense Ammunition Center (DAC) Demil Technology Directorate and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL).

“DOD has more than 750,000 D563 projectiles that contain 88 individual M42 and M46 submunitions, and more than 300,000 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) warheads that contain 644 individual M77 submunitions. This equates to more than a quarter billion individual submunitions slated for demilitarization in the near future.

“Because of this incredible volume of material to be processed, the Demil Enterprise is interested in not only automating the ICM disassembly processes, but also in maximizing the recovery and/or reuse of these valuable recyclable metals and explosive materials,” said Dr. Keith Clift, Senior Physical Scientist, DAC Demil Technology Directorate. “Depending on the markets for these recovered materials, it has been estimated that well over $40 million could be realized from the recovery of material from just the D563 and MLRS.”

Another reason the process is so important to the Demil community is that it helps to eliminate the risks associated with potential range contamination from accidental scattering of submunitions during open detonation (OD) of the ICM rounds.

“Given the sheer number of submunitions associated with these two munition items, there is a good statistical probability that eventually some of these submunitions could end up being inadvertently ‘kicked out’ during OD operations and scattered on our demil ranges, leading to possible restriction or even loss of this valuable demil capability,” Clift explained. “By removing this volume of ICM rounds from the range, it not only protects our ranges from potential ICM contamination, but also helps to free up valuable range capacity for other munition items that currently have no other demil alternative except OD.”

The new ICM R3 process has complied with all preliminary safety assessments conducted by the U.S. Army Technical Center for Explosives Safety and has completed a successful full-scale demonstration and validation test on inert submunitions at SNL. Currently the process is being installed at Hawthorne Army Depot, NV, where it will undergo formal low-rate initial production runs this fall.


  • JAIME THOMPSON is a DOD employee with the U.S. Army Defense Ammunition Center. She holds a B.A. in business education from Oklahoma State University and an M.Ed. in educational technology from East Central University. Thompson is a graduate of the Defense Information School Public Affairs Officers Course.