• Army develops lightweight ballistic protection for aircraft

    The AMRDEC Prototype Integration Facility designed, qualified, fabricated and installed a prototype of an enhanced Ballistic Protection System for the cabin of the UH-60 Black Hawk aircraft.

    By Heather R. Smith

     

    “Advances in light-weight composites have allowed the Army to begin the integration of new lighter weight ballistic protection systems.”

    REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. — Army tactics and training are constantly changing to meet the threat on the battlefield, and one such example is the attack helicopter.

    Originally the AH-1 Cobras were designed to arrive on station quickly, eliminate the threat, and move on to the next target. But in today’s battlefield, attack helicopters like the AH-64 Apaches are providing air support to ground convoys, and often hovering over convoys to eliminate any sign of threats.

    These combat operations result in increased exposure to enemy ground fire and increased need for ballistic protection systems, and the Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Prototype Integration Facility (PIF) has developed that expertise.

    Ballistic protection systems (BPS) typically consist of materials and techniques used to shelter personnel and materiel against projectiles. PIF Program Management Supervisor Jeff Carr said thick, heavy, dense material has historically been used for armor, so a major challenge for aviation is to provide ballistic protection in the lightest, most compact means possible.

    The PIF has a history of installing traditional armor on ground vehicles including the high mobility artillery rocket system, or HIMARS. Although armor steel is a very effective BPS, it is extremely heavy. The cab armor on the HIMARS weighs approximately 2,500 pounds.

    Carr said changes in the warfight have challenged the Army to effectively employ lighter-weight armor systems in aircraft while maintaining or increasing the ability to withstand advanced ground fire. Advances in light-weight composites have allowed the Army to begin the integration of new lighter weight ballistic protection systems.

    The PIF designed and integrated a BPS for a tactical variant of the Bell 407 aircraft. The Iraqi Armed 407 was an aircraft produced by the PIF and commissioned by the Department of State for the Iraqi government. This effort was particularly challenging due to space constraints associated with the small commercial-to-military converted aircraft. The installed system provides protection for the cockpit floor and crew seats.

    Lightweight ballistic armor is also being designed, qualified, fabricated and installed by the PIF on the CH-47 Chinook, and UH-60 Black Hawk aircraft.

    The current Chinook BPS system offers protection against small arms fire and weighs 3,500 lbs. The PIF was able to take advantage of advances in light-weight composite material and to reduce the weight of the original BPS by 2,000 lbs. The new BPS offers additional protection to both the pilot and cargo areas. Also integrated into the CH-47D/F is a floor kit, a passenger vertical kit, and a multi-impact transparent armor system for windows, which allows normal operations while reducing ballistic intrusion.

    The PIF-enhanced BPS for the Black Hawk will reduce the weight of the current BPS system by 500 pounds. The PIF will also deliver a technical data package to the UH-60 program management office, which will allow industry to compete for future BPS acquisitions.

    “The PIF continues to design, develop, and install new and improved ballistic protection on aviation and ground systems,” Carr said, “Their design capabilities, machine shop and advanced composites lab provide an extraordinary capability to create custom formed material BPS.”


    • AMRDEC is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America’s Soldiers.

      RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army’s premier provider of materiel readiness — technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment — to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.


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  • ARL, Purdue research of 3-D printing to fix damaged on-the-spot in combat zones, cut maintenance cos

    ARL: Topological Interlocking Structures

    By T’Jae Gibson,
    Army Research Laboratory Public Affairs

     

    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — New technology being developed by research engineers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and Purdue University will soon help just about any Soldier deployed in far-off locations to immediately spot and fix damaged aircraft and ground vehicle parts.

    Researchers found that combining the general purpose, finite-element analysis software ABAQUS with Python, an open-source code used to optimize logical structures such as topologically interlocked structures, improves energy absorption and dissipation, productivity and lower maintenance costs.

    The combination of ABAQUS and Python provides an automated process for auto-generation of the geometries, models, materials assignments and code execution, said Ed Habtour, a research engineer with ARL’s Vehicle Technology Directorate at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

    He said the code is developed to assist designers with tools to model the new generation of 3-D additive manufactured and TISs structures.

    “The benefit for the Soldier is an after-effect. The TIS would provide an excellent energy absorption and dissipation mechanism for future vehicles using additive manufacturing, Habtour said. “Subsequently, the Soldier can print these structures in the field using additive manufacturing by simply downloading the model generated by the designer/vendor.”

    The research team developed logical structures from the mini-composition of tetrahedron-shaped cells in existing materials, an approach ARL research engineers say is a vast departure from the military’s tendency to build new materials to meet existing problems.

    “Traditionally, every time the U.S. Army encounters a problem in the field the default has been to develop new and exotic materials. Using logical structures can be effective in solving some critical and challenging problems, like the costly and time-consuming certification process that all new materials must face,” Habtour said.

    This logical structure is based on principles of segmentation and assembly, where the structure is segmented into independent unit elements then reconfigured/assembled logically and interlocked in an optimal orientation to enhance the overall properties of the structure, Habtour explained.

    The researchers are focusing on topologically interlocked structures using VTD’s 3-D additive manufacturing approach to build 2-D and 3-D structures based on cells in the shape of Platonic solids.

    Habtour said new structures created from this process are designed to be adaptive and configurable to the harsh conditions like random and harmonic vibrations, thermal loads, repetitive shocks due to road bumps, crash and acoustic attenuation. An added bonus he said is that these structures are configured to prevent crack propagation.

    “Sometime in the near future, Soldiers would be able to fabricate and repair these segmented structures very easily in the front lines or Forward Operating Bases, so instead of moving damaged ground or air vehicles to a main base camp for repair, an in-field repair approach would essentially mean vehicles would be fixed and accessible to warfighters much faster at lower costs,” said Habtour. “We want to change the conventional thinking by taking advantage of exciting materials and manipulating the structure based on the principle of segmentation and assembly.”

    ARL is working closely with project managers at The U. S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center. Discussions are already underway to transition this work to AMRDEC and Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center developmental programs.

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  • Collaboration leads to new rocket propulsion technology

    A team of Army researchers developed a new gel-propellant engine called the vortex engine. (Photo Credit: AMRDEC)

    By Tracie Dean, U.S. Army Research Laboratory

     

    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Aug. 5, 2013) — A team of Army researchers developed a new gel-propellant engine called the vortex engine.

    Michael Nusca, Ph.D., Robert Michaels and Nathan Mathis were recently recognized by the Department of the Army with a 2012 Army Research and Development Outstanding Collaboration Award, or RDA, for their work titled, “Use of Computational Fluid Dynamics in the Development and Testing of Controllable Thrust Gel Bipropellant Rocket Engines for Tactical Missiles.”

    Nusca, a researcher in Army Research Laboratory, or ARL’s, Propulsion Science Branch at Aberdeen Proving Ground, explained the new technology.

    “Gelled, hypergolic propellants are swirled with the combustion chamber to promote mixing and combustion,” Nusca said. “Traditionally, Army missiles used on the battlefield utilize solid propellant in the rocket engine. These engines require an ignition source and once initiated cannot be throttled without special hardware, both of which add weight to the engine. Liquid hypergolic propellants ignite on contact without an igniter and the engine can be throttled by regulating the propellant flow. In addition, if the propellants are gelled, the storage tanks have been shown to be insensitive to attack, unlike liquids that can explode when the container is punctured.”

    This new engine was developed with Michaels and Mathis, both researchers at the Aviation Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, which is one of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s, or AMRDEC, elements located at Redstone Arsenal, Ala.

    “At AMRDEC, the propellants, injection systems and engines were developed and test fired, while at ARL the physics of propellant injection, combustion and engine operation were modeled using supercomputers,” Nusca said. This modeling included both current engine and fuel designs as well as proposals for design alternatives aimed at enhanced performance. The synergism of research between the two labs proved the technology worked according to design.”

    “This award recognized the cooperative effort between the ARL-WMRD, or Weapons and Materials Research Directorate, and the AMRDEC-WDI, or Weapons Development and Integration, in maturing a new rocket engine technology for Army tactical missiles.”

    Commenting on the impact this body of work could have on the operational Army, Nusca said, “This technology has the potential for game-changing impacts on the future of small, selectable thrust rocket engines for Army tactical missiles, as the main propulsion system, as well as strategic missiles as a course correction system. AMRDEC and the Program Executive Officer for Missiles and Space have direct uses for this technology.”

    The primary use and application of this technology has been on the battlefield.

    “Eventually the Soldier will have access to a tactical missile on the battlefield that can be used for a variety of missions due to the selectable thrust capability,” Nusca said.

    Nusca believes this technology has other applications that will also produce significant results for missile systems.

    “The next step for this type of technology would be a full-scale flight test of the vortex engine at AMRDEC for a particular missile system. This test would extend the successful engine test-stand firings and computer modeling and demonstrate increased missile range and thrust modulation in flight,” Nusca said.

    The RDA awards recognize outstanding scientific and engineering achievements and technical leadership throughout the Army’s commands, laboratories, and research, development and engineering centers.

    Nusca was thrilled to have received the recognition by the Army for the team’s work.

    “Receiving this RDA for cooperation makes me feel proud to be a part of ARL and AMRDEC efforts to produce basic and applied research that is increasingly relevant to the Soldier to whom we owe the best battlefield technology that we develop,” Nusca said.


    • ARL is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America’s Soldiers.

      RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, or AMC. AMC is the Army’s premier provider of materiel readiness, technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection and sustainment, to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC delivers it.


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  • Army adopts stronger, lighter composite materials

    The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's Aviation and Missile RDEC Prototype Integration Facility's Advanced Composites Lab is at the forefront of composite repair in Army aviation. In addition to performing the highest quality composite repairs, the PIF Advanced Composites Lab is creating solutions for the broad spectrum of composite needs in Army aviation. (Photos courtesy of U.S. Army)

    By Heather R. Smith

     
    REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (July 19, 2013) — In the future, Army aircraft may be made of all composite materials, and the Prototype Integration Facility (PIF) Advanced Composites Laboratory is ready.

    Part of the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center’s (AMRDEC), engineering directorate, the PIF’s advanced composites lab has successfully designed and made repairs on damaged composite aircraft components for several years now.

    From research and development to implementation and rapid prototyping, advancing composites technology is one of AMRDEC’s core competencies that enable the current and future force.

    The PIF advanced composites lab is one of several teams at the AMRDEC working with composites.

    Composite materials are a combination of materials that, when combined, produce a new material with characteristics different from the individual components. Examples of composite materials are fiberglass, Kevlar, and carbon fiber. Composite materials may be preferred for many reasons, including increased strength, reduced weight, and reduced production and sustainment cost.

    “We have gotten as strong and as light as we can get with metals, and we’re at the end of what metals can economically do,” PIF advanced composites lab lead Kimberly Cockrell said. “The only way to get stronger and lighter and more capable for the fight is to go to composites.”

    PIF leadership recognized a need for advanced composites repair and began developing a composites capability within the PIF mission to provide rapid response solutions to the warfighter. The program includes repair design and engineering substantiation to show that repaired components are returned to original strength.

    Personnel in the PIF advanced composites lab designed and developed repairs for damaged composite stabilators on the UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter and the AH-64E Apache helicopter. Prior to their repair method, the only way to repair an aircraft with a damaged stabilator was to pull off the broken stabilator and replace it with a new one.

    Cockrell said the “pull-and-replace” approach was costing the Army up to six figures per stabilator replacement.

    While the first repair procedures were designed for Black Hawk stabilators, the repair method applies to any solid laminate or sandwich core composite structure, so the procedures and training can be leveraged to other Army aircraft.

    Cockrell is proud of the lab’s achievements. Its repair procedures are the first approved repair for primary composite structure on Army aircraft.

    With integral support from the AMRDEC’s aviation engineering directorate, the procedures for the composite stabilator repairs have been written and are undergoing approval for release by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command (AMCOM) logistics center.

    An important aspect of developing repair methods is working with the repair personnel who will make the repairs. Members of the PIF Advanced Composites Lab have been training Soldiers on the new stabilator repair procedures prior to deployment so that they can request approval to use them, on a case-by-case basis, through the Aviation Engineering Directorate.

    The lab has also trained the instructors at the 128th Aviation Brigade, as well as the AMCOM logistics assistance representatives.

    In addition to training, the PIF Advanced Composites Lab, in partnership with the Aviation Engineering Directorate, played a lead role in developing the Army Technical Manual 1-1500-204-23-11 “Advanced Composite Material General Maintenance and Practices,” as well as in defining the tooling and material load for the new AVIM composites shop set.

    The lab is currently working repairs for blades too, as well as just-in-time tooling for parts with complex curves or topography.

    And in addition to repair solutions, the lab is using composite materials to create solutions for other issues. For example, it has designed and built a composite doubler to strengthen the hat channels that extend from the hinges of the UH-60 engine cowling.

    “When the aircraft is on the ground being maintained, the engine cowling folds out to become a maintenance stand,” Cockrell explained. “Two Soldiers can stand up there with a tool box and work on the engine. Unfortunately, minor damage to those hat channels can cause these (cowlings) to catastrophically fail and seriously injure the Soldiers.”

    “We designed this piece so that — if the hat channel shows any kind of damage whatsoever — you can simply install this doubler over the damaged area; it will restore the cowling to its original strength or better, and two doublers — one on each side of the cowling — adds less than a pound to the overall aircraft weight,” Cockrell continued. “So the pound that you add is well-worth the safety margin you gain.”

    It’s concepts like that, Cockrell said, that the lab is introducing to program managers to show how the lab can help with more than just repairing stabilators.

    “Our goal is to transition the stabilator repair business to other sources of supply, because we know that as soon as we get these repairs fully fielded, there will be new structures and composites issues for us to work,” Cockrell said. “The Apache composite tailboom, new composite cabin frames, new composite cabin floors, and new composite blades are all coming down the pike.”

    “In five to 10 years, it’s all composite,” he said. “So whether it’s fiberglass or carbon fiber or Kevlar or a hybrid, it’s going all composite quickly. And it’s important for the Army to be ready.”


    • AMRDEC is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America’s Soldiers.

      RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army’s premier provider of materiel readiness — technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment — to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC delivers it.


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  • Acquisition partnership to roll out new improved Sentinel Radar

    AN/MPQ-64 A3 Enhanced Sentinel Radar System is the only 360-degree coverage air defense radar in the Army’s current inventory and features a 3 D X-Band phased array antenna that provides an instrumented range of 75 kilometers. ( U.S. Army photos)

    By Michael A. Wilson and Michael J. Glenn

     

    Embracing the Army agile process, the Cruise Missile Defense Systems (CMDS) Project Office’s Sentinel Product Office (SPO), went from early planning, to prototype and then qualification testing of a new Enhanced Sentinel Radar in just over 12 months.

    Sentinel will showcase this latest evolution enhancing force protection and Soldier survivability in a roll-out of the AN/MPQ 64A3 Enhanced Sentinel Radar first production unit on a Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) in October at Letterkenny Army Depot, Pa. (LEAD).

    Sentinel is the only 360-degree coverage air defense radar in the Army’s current inventory and features a 3 DX Band phased array antenna that provides an instrumented range of 75 kilometers. The Army previously procured 143 basic Sentinel Radars on the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) but through incremental upgrades, the radar has evolved to a more robust system with greater capability.

    In FY11, the Army procured 56 additional Enhanced Sentinel A3 radars that will be mounted on the M1082 Light Medium Tactical Vehicle Trailer (LMTV) with support equipment loaded onto the M1083 FMTV. The A3 radars are being produced by Thales Raytheon Systems (TRS) at the Raytheon Consolidated Manufacturing Center at Forest, Miss., while the FMTV truck and LMTV trailer will receive Sentinel specific modifications at LEAD.

    Sentinel will roll-out the AN/MPQ 64A3 Enhanced Sentinel Radar first production unit on a Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) in October 2013 at Letterkenny Army Depot.

    The new FMTV platform replaces the current HMMWV that has been in use with the Sentinel radar since 1997 and is capable of hosting an enhanced armor protection kit that signifies a major step forward in providing increased Soldier survivability. The armored FMTV will meet all Sentinel maneuverability and transportability requirements while providing greater protection to the Soldier against today’s battlefield threats. The improved platform also has a larger area for the installation of new equipment that will allow Sentinel to be fully integrated with the Army Integrated Air & Missile Defense (IAMD) systems.

    The Enhanced Sentinel Radar also has a modernized Radar Control Terminal (RCT) with a Linux-based RCT operating system, adding an Ethernet router for integration with the IAMD architecture. This will integrate the Identification Friend or Foe Mode V capability to prevent fratricide and the need to replace obsolete processor cards.

    Design to first production was accomplished at amazing speed and efficiency by using the Army agile process. The SPO at CMDS pursued a government acquisition and development approach using an integrated product team (IPT) that significantly reduced cost and development time. The FMTV Sentinel prototype effort was led by the Aviation & Missile Research, Development & Engineering Center (AMRDEC) Prototype Integration Facility (PIF) at Redstone Arsenal, Ala. along with the IPT.

    This IPT partnership comprised members from the PIF; designers from Intuitive Research and Technology Corporation and Yulista Management Services (subcontractors to the PIF); manufacturing engineers and tradesmen from LEAD; safety engineers from the Army Research Laboratory and CMDS; maintenance personnel from the Fire Center of Excellence; system engineers and logisticians from TRS (the developer and manufacturer of the radar); and representatives from CMDS in various engineering disciplines, logisticians and program management. By using this unique method, the Sentinel team went from the early planning stage to having a completed prototype and moving into qualification testing in just over 12 months. This approach reduced the manufacturing lead time and cost by allowing LEAD to input required changes in the design tailored to their processes and process capabilities, input to material and vendor selection, and plan for life-cycle support requirements.

    The new FMTV platform replaces the current HMMWV that has been in use with the Sentinel radar since 1997 and is capable of hosting an enhanced armor protection kit that signifies a major step forward in providing increased Soldier survivability. Fielding 56 new systems is scheduled to begin in FY14.

    The IPT partnership approach allowed for quick incorporation of changes resulting from development and test activities to be optimized and integrated into the production line in substantially less time and at significantly less cost than previous development efforts. In addition, this reduced the number of design changes since major stakeholders were encouraged to provide input on the design on a weekly basis rather than at traditional preliminary and critical design reviews. This process also allowed the Sentinel product director to identify and abate program risks much quicker than in a normal program execution. Overall, the Army agile process has allowed the SPO to develop, build, test, and transition into production, an FMTV-based Sentinel in less time, with fewer redesigns and at less cost to the government than a typical Army system acquisition.

    Fielding the 56 new production systems is scheduled to begin in fiscal year 2014, and an effort to replace the current HMMWV platform with the new FMTV for the entire Sentinel fleet is planned from fiscal year 2014 through fiscal year 2018.

    The October roll-out of the AN/MPQ-64A3 Enhanced Sentinel Radar’s first new-production radar will be another step in the Sentinel Radar evolution. This signifies a major step in providing enhanced surveillance data to shooters in the IAMD architecture, increased Soldier survivability, and proven viability of the Army’s agile acquisition process.


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  • Army harnesses sun to reduce casualties from sniper attacks

    By Edric Thompson

     

    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — The U.S. Army is harnessing the elements to help reduce casualties from sniper attacks on forward operating bases.

    The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s research laboratory and aviation missile and communications-electronics RD&E centers — the Army Research Laboratory, or ARL, the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, and the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC — have integrated and deployed wind and solar harvesting systems to provide continuous energy to company-level, force protection systems used by U.S. Army combat units in theater.

    A joint venture by ARL, Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, known as AMRDEC, and industry, the Hostile Fire Detection Sensor, or Firefly, is a 360-degree surveillance system that uses acoustics fused with Short Wave Infrared detectors to locate enemy shooters for more accurate return fire.

    Firefly detects line-of-sight and non-line-of-sight hostile fire and classifies these as small arms, heavy machine gun or rocket/mortar. It calculates geo-location of the shot and provides self-position and heading in a standard cursor-on-target format. The Firefly can be either a mobile or fixed system, attached to the Soldier’s backpack while on patrol, or mounted at forward operating bases.

    The Firefly system was initially deployed to Afghanistan in May 2012 to support a fires detection requirement. However, deployment sites faced challenges in sustaining conventional power delivery to Fireflies along perimeter walls due to enemy attacks when Soldiers were above the wall line changing batteries.

    “In our attempts to solve the power issue, we discovered that CERDEC had sponsored the development of RENEWS power kits, which offered more complete solutions for charging the power supplies,” said William Lawler, an electrical engineer in ARL’s Sensor Integration Branch. “They immediately provided us with several kits, which we sent to AMRDEC for integration with Firefly and testing. Once it was determined that this solution satisfactorily extended the power supply, CERDEC provided several solar versions of the kits for deployment.”

    The Reusing Existing Natural Energy, Wind & Solar system, or RENEWS, enables the harvesting and utilization of wind and/or solar power and is intended to produce up to 300 watts of energy field usage in silent, remote operations where the supply of power and fuel resupply is difficult or risky, noted Daniel Berka, an electronics technician in CERDEC’s Command, Power & Integration directorate, or CERDEC CP&I.

    RENEWS consists of a wind turbine, three 124-watt flexible solar panels, a power conditioner, an AC inverter, and a battery storage/charging unit that contains six BB-2590 rechargeable batteries; it can be hooked into either the solar panels or the wind turbine for continuous charging. The BB-2590 battery, which was developed by CERDEC CP&I, is lighter than the standard BB-390 battery and features better capacity.

    “RENEWS offers options; solar was preferred in this case, using the solar panels to charge the six-pack of batteries during the day. We connected a cable from the RENEWS kit to the Firefly, giving them 1.2 KW of continuous energy to run the Firefly system. There still was some maintenance to check the Six-Pack and clean the dirt off the solar panels, but the Soldiers are not going up there every day because the solar panels are within the walls, so they’re not exposed to enemy fire,” Berka said.

    Limited pairings of the two systems have gone to theater as a package, with the most recent deployment being April 24.

    “Integration is absolutely a critical, relevant and priority S&T (science and technology) investment, and RDECOM is uniquely positioned to provide this to the Army,” said Dale Ormond, director of U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, known as RDECOM. “We are the only organization that has the flexibility and technical expertise to execute the Army S&T mission across a broad portfolio of services. We can draw on a wide range of strengths and technical competencies from each of our centers and laboratories to develop holistic solutions that meet real operational needs. It provides better technical solutions for Soldiers and it enhances the Army’s ability to be more flexible and adaptive against asymmetrical threats.”

    The integrated solution also provided an opportunity for CERDEC CP&I to gather additional operational feedback to be used in efforts to reduce Soldier load and logistical support, said Pedro Passapera, chief for CERDEC CP&I’s Experimentation and Simulation Branch.

    “Changing power sources and delivering fuel can be dangerous for Soldiers in the field. We are always looking for opportunities to collaborate with other organizations in order to address small unit power issues while reducing the logistics footprint,” Passapera said.

    “Operational feedback allows us to see areas for improvements that would make the technology more effective for mission support,” Passapera continued. “Other Soldiers will benefit from this because we will use the feedback to make adjustments to the current or next generation system and provide the data back to the appropriate decision makers. This was a perfect fit.” said.

    CP&I has deployed 40 complete RENEWS systems and more than 60 solar systems to units, Passapera noted.

    AMRDEC is seeking to transition Firefly to a program of record in late fiscal year 2013, noted Timothy Edwards, Ph.D., lead for AMRDEC’s Firefly team.

    RDECOM, whose mission is to develop technology and engineering solutions for America’s Soldiers, is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army’s premier provider of materiel readiness — technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment — to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.

    “This integrated solution has been very successful and is still serving the warfighters in Afghanistan. Working across RDECOM truly is the best way to support the warfighter,” Edwards said.


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  • Engineers work to better monitor missile health

    Missiles RDECOM - Stephen Marotta, principal investigator with the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, watches as Stephen Horowitz, a Ducommun Miltec engineer, displays a fully functional prototype MEMs sensor being developed to monitor vibration in support of missile health monitoring.

    By Evelyn Teats

     

    REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. — The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s (RDECOM) aviation and missile center is leveraging micro-electro-mechanical systems research in a new application to detect potentially damaging vibrations encountered by missiles during handling, transport and operation.

    Stephen Marotta, Engineering Directorate project principal investigator, said MEMS research has been ongoing at Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center for many years and many different applications have been successfully transitioned from the lab to the Soldier in the field.

    In an effort to improve missile health monitoring, Marotta began collaborating with Mohan Sanghadasa, from AMRDEDC’s Weapons Development and Integration Directorate, and Stephen Horowitz, an engineer with Ducommun Miltec.

    The AMRDEC team is using technology, both current and in-development, to design a new MEMS sensor that will offer several benefits over current missile health monitoring systems.

    “We’ve spent a number of years developing acoustic sensors, microphones based on piezoelectric materials,” Horowitz said, “and there’s not a huge difference between designing a microphone and designing a vibration sensor and accelerometers. It’s a different structure, a different geometry, but we use the same fabrication processes to create them. On our first generation sensor, we used the same materials even.”

    One benefit of the new design is extended battery life.

    Current missile health monitoring methods require a lot of power, because they collect vibration data at all frequencies. Research, however, has shown that the greatest risk for damage to missiles occurs during low vibration — under 200 hertz. The AMRDEC team is designing a sensor that only collects low frequency data and is capable of switching on and off, thus extending the battery’s life.

    Marotta said the MEMS work meets the challenge set by AMRDEC director for missile development Steve Cornelius to get new capabilities into the hands of Soldiers, to leverage technology solutions that increase readiness, and to enable more affordable weapons.

    “Applied research, led by the AMRDEC Engineering Directorate, is addressing those many challenges in an integrated fashion with other AMRDEC directorates, other RDECs, and other services to sustain its missile systems as efficiently and effectively as possible,” Marotta said. “AMRDEC science and technology for monitoring of missile health or condition improves the accuracy of readiness reporting and reduces the overall missile sustainment burden. AMRDEC is making a positive impact with current technology transitions at present, as well as greatly benefiting future systems.”

    A prototype of the sensor should be complete later this year with transition into the field expected in 2014.

    The team reported its research in a paper published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, “A Low Frequency MEMS Vibration Sensor for Low Power Missile Health Monitoring.” The paper was nominated for best paper at the 2013 IEEE conference.

    AMRDEC is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America’s Soldiers.

    RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army’s premier provider of materiel readiness — technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment — to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.


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