Engineers Innovate for Burster Tube Production

[author type="author"]Tom Peske[/author]

Crane Army Ammunition Activity (CAAA) employees recently improved a process to produce burster tubes, ensuring that the products would be made in the U.S. and to a high standard of quality.

[image align="right" caption="Pictured is a M54 burster tube produced at CAAA for the M110A2 projectile. (Photo by Tom Peske.)" linkto="http://esx-ffxu01.brtrc.com/wp-content/uploads/110412_photo01.jpg" linktype="image"]“/web/wp-content/uploads/110412_photo01.jpg” height=”163″ width=”246″[/image]

CAAA was asked by the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal, NJ, to take over production of the M54 burster tube, which is a component in a type of M110A2 projectile produced at Pine Bluff Arsenal, AR.

Successful Transition

The M54 burster tube has a history of being difficult to produce. Due to a lack of capable suppliers, ARDEC had to pour a small production run of burster tubes to support the M110 program, using equipment in its research and design facility that is used to pour test bursters for product development. Production was difficult for ARDEC, which is not set up for long production runs. The decision was to move the equipment to CAAA.

According to Sal Ghazi, Project Officer with Program Executive Office Ammunition’s Project Manager Combat Ammunition Systems at Picatinny, “CAAA successfully transitioned production of the M54 burster tubes in the M110A2 projectile. CAAA Ordnance Division took a prototype facility developed at Picatinny Arsenal and successfully installed, debugged, and produced more than 29,000 bursters with less than one percent of scrap.”

[quote align="left"]CAAA Ordnance Division took a prototype facility developed at Picatinny Arsenal and successfully installed, debugged, and produced more than 29,000 bursters with less than one percent of scrap.[/quote]

The initial challenge for CAAA was to adapt the prototype equipment to its facilities. CAAA Ordnance Division Engineer Lucas Allison noted that Crane Army received the primary equipment, such as the kettle, from Picatinny Arsenal. However, Crane Army had to develop all the electrical controls, hot water controls, and finishing equipment to produce the burster tubes.

Allison also said that Crane Army did not have a melt/pour facility ready to handle producing the burster tubes. The originally proposed facility was undergoing renovations and not suitable to meet the needs of burster tube production, so another building was identified for melting. To prepare this building, all of its old equipment had to be removed and utilities turned back on. Air, steam, waste water, washout pits, vacuum system, and other infrastructure had to be reworked.

[image align="right" caption="The graphic illustrates how the M54 burster tube fits into the M110A2 projectile." linkto="/web/wp-content/uploads/110412_photo02v2.jpg" linktype="image"]“/web/wp-content/uploads/110412_photo02v2.jpg” height=”164″ width=”246″[/image]

Once the building was prepared, the equipment was set up and CAAA engineers began to enhance the burster tube production process. As the equipment was validated, CAAA worked to reduce the previously established reject rate. “CAAA set up to mimic the process at ARDEC, knowing that the historical production reject rate would be higher than desired,” Allison said. “During the installation and control design process, alternate pouring methods were developed. During prove-out of the equipment, Crane Army tested the alternate methods and locked them in as the new pouring process for the M54 burster tubes at Crane Army.”

‘Good News Story’

Through more than two years of trials, CAAA Ordnance Division worked to perfect the system and reduce the reject rate. By 2010 the process had significantly reduced the reject rate. The result, Allison said, is a robust process producing at less than one percent reject rate, allowing CAAA to provide a quality product to Pine Bluff Arsenal for its production of the M110A2 projectile. Previous reject rates ranged from 17 to more than 50 percent.

CAAA’s production of the burster tubes had more than one positive effect for the activity. “This is a good news story for CAAA because the burster tubes were being supplied by a foreign company. They also now can be produced domestically,” Allison said.

[quote align="left"]The result is a robust process producing at less than one percent reject rate, allowing CAAA to provide a quality product to Pine Bluff Arsenal for its production of the M110A2 projectile. [/quote]

For CAAA, the success has also meant the possibility of increased work. “This has created a good name for Crane with our customers. They are now turning to us with new work. Due to this success, we have been funded numerous new jobs with this customer base,” said Allison.

CAAA, established in Oct. 1977, maintains ordnance professionals and infrastructure to receive, store, ship, produce, renovate, and demilitarize conventional ammunition, missiles, and related components. The Army activity is a subordinate of the Joint Munitions Command and is located on Naval Support Activity Crane, IN.


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  • TOM PESKE is the Public Affairs Officer for CAAA. He holds a B.A. in mass communication/journalism from Lock Haven University and is a graduate of the Public Affairs Office Qualifying Course from the Defense Information School.

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