• Warfighters can soon use rugged, encrypted smartphone detectors to identify chemical and biological agent

    The Edgewood Chemical Biological Center and the Communications Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center created a simple, Army-specific smartphone technology powered by simple volatile organic compound strips. (photo by Greg Thompson, ECBC Conceptual Modeling and Animation)

    By ECBC Communications


    A warfighter is performing a mission in a dangerous area where civilians are showing signs of a possible chemical or biological agent exposure. Without the luxury of a full laboratory at his fingertips, it would be difficult for him to investigate the situation right then and there, prolonging any type of additional effort, possibly putting his life and the civilians’ lives in jeopardy. Thanks to the strong partnership between scientists and engineers at U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC), iSense, LLC., U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), this dangerous scenario would not occur. ECBC, iSense, CERDEC and DTRA are working together to give warfighters a quick, new way to evaluate potential chemical and biological (CB) threats using smartphones and an encrypted network within minutes.

    The program first began when ECBC researchers were awarded $27,000 through ECBC’s Innovative Projects Proposal Program, an internal program that funds innovative ideas generated by ECBC principal investigators, to conduct a series of tests on volatile organic compound (VOC) strips. VOCs are postage stamp-sized, colorimetric sensor assays with 88 different indicator dyes developed by iSense LLC (Boston, MA). The project set out to explore VOC’s potential for detection, presumptive identification or chemical dosimetry. After a successful testing period, ECBC established a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with iSense LLC., to develop defense-focused VOC technology. One of these developments is the mobile CB detection program.

    “The VOC strips are the core technology of this project. They are inexpensive, easy to manufacture and compare data within the library,” Emanuel said.

    If a warfighter is in a potentially dangerous area, he could investigate the situation by gathering an environmental (such as soil) or biomedical (such as urine) sample and place it on a VOC strip. Then the strip is loaded on a device called the Biotouch. From there, the warfighter can leave the potentially contaminated area for a safer spot and receive the test results on a separate device called the Nett Warrior phone, through a secure and encrypted Army network. Results from the VOC will be geographically tagged (geo-tagged) and added to a secure cloud system. Both the Biotouch and Nett Warrior phones are rugged enough for use in-theater, but still light enough to be easily transportable.

    The Biotouch is a 3’x3’x5’ discreet object that can fit into a pocket. Its design was modeled after small objects such as condiment lids and flashlights.

    “The idea is to have two smartphones: the Biotouch that could test the VOC and the Nett Warrior phone that would receive the information from a different location. The two will be able to communicate with each other through a phone portal within the encrypted network,” explained Emanuel.
    The Nett Warrior phone is a military-adapted version of the commercially available Samsung GALAXY Note II. CERDEC has worked extensively with the Nett Warrior phone over the past year under their Research and Development Mission program called Multi Access Cellular Extension. CERDEC is developing the interface for the Nett Warrior to communicate and obtain readings from the Biotouch. ECBC engineers are using their in-house industrial 3-D printing capability to develop the Biotouch colorimetric assay reader. The construct of the two phones will allow for easy software updates. The Biotouch is a static device with proven technology while the Nett Warrior phone would evolve with technical advances.

    Other styles of mobile detectors allow smartphones to double as microscopes and hand-held assay (HHA) readers, but there were several challenges. When ECBC initially tested these methods during demonstrations, warfighters commented that this style was not suitable for Army use. In this style, users attached an external reader to their phone and then placed the assay on the reader and read the results right there on the mobile device, many times civilian phones that were not rugged enough for in-theater use. Also, a typical civilian cellular network is not compliant with Army networks; geo-tagged information was unprotected. Finally, the all-in-one style reader required the user to be near the sample the entire time –a practice that has potential to be dangerous. The new Army-compliant system addresses these issues.

    Emanuel said that the mobile detector program is a great example of how different organizations can come together to create impactful solutions. CERDEC representatives agree.

    “This is the first time our group has collaborated with ECBC. The experience has been great so far and relationships with other ECBC groups are being fostered as a result of this partnership as well,” said Marianne Lazzaro, acting branch chief of CERDEC’s Commercial Technology Integration and Evaluation Branch, which supports multiple projects with their smartphone and cellular applications, and oversees multiple research and development programs that bring commercial mobile technologies to the battlefield.

    Prototypes of the CB mobile detection system will be completed in May 2014 for use in two projects, the Joint United States Forces Korea (USFK) Portal and Integrated Threat Recognition advanced technology demonstration (JUPITR ATD) and in a medical countermeasures project with Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC).

    JUPITR ATD is a program led by the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense (JPEO-CBD) and supported by ECBC, which will provide unique biological detection capabilities to address the demand for stronger biosurveillance capabilities on the Korean Peninsula. The prototypes will be used in the Republic of Korea to capture air samples and tested as viable biological detectors for the program. TATRC will use the devices to read and analyze commercial, off-the-shelf assays that can then be sent to networks used in military hospitals and possibly civilian hospitals as well. The goal is also for this data to be free of personally identifiable information.

    “I am very excited to be collaborating with new people from across RDECOM on this project,” said Jeff Warwick, ECBC Conceptual Modeling and Animation Branch chief and lead engineer on the mobile technologies project. “It’s especially great to be able to work with TATRC, which is a new organization to us.”

    Emanuel envisions that this new Army-compliant mobile CB detector capability could be applicable to organizations outside of the Department of Defense, including civilian hospitals, Customs and Border Protection and the Food and Drug Administration.

    “Imagine a cargo of bananas arrives into an American port. To ensure optimal safety of the shipment, a Biotouch is placed in the box to collect some samples. All an inspector has to do is monitor the results coming into the reader to ensure that the cargo is safe from harmful CB agent,” Emanuel said. “That’s just one example that could have a big impact. There are so many more possibilities for this type of technology, and I’m glad that we’re building it for the Army.”

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  • Congressmen, Army break ground on future site of R&D hangar

    CERDEC I2WD Flight Activity Director Charles Maraldo, CERDEC Associate Director Robert Zanzalari, Rep. Jon Runyan of New Jersey’s third district, RDECOM Director Dale Ormond, CERDEC I2WD Director Henry Muller, Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey’s fourth district, and Army Corps of Engineer- New York District Commander Col. Paul Owen break ground at the CERDEC Flight Activity Hangar groundbreaking ceremony at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst April 11. The CERDEC research and development hangar is scheduled to be completed early 2016 and will enable CERDEC to continue its C4ISR advancements as related to aircraft. (U.S. Army Photos by Mike Burke)

    By Kristen Kushiyama


    JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. – Congressmen, U.S. Army senior executive service members and other military officials gathered at the Joint Base’s Lakehurst section for a ceremonial groundbreaking at the site of a future Army research and development aircraft hangar here April 11.

    Reps. Jon Runyan and Chris Smith from New Jersey’s third and fourth districts joined leaders from the Army’s research and development community and the Army Corps of Engineers for a symbolic “first dig” at the hangar site slated for completion January 2016. The Research, Development and Engineering Command’s communications-electronics center, or RDECOM CERDEC, hosted the event.

    The Army awarded Pennsylvania-based Bedwell Company a $42 million contract for the 107,000 square foot facilities construction overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-New York District.

    Located on the only tri-service joint base in the country, the hangar will be a much-needed addition to the CERDEC Flight Activity, which is managed by the CERDEC Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate, or I2WD. The CERDEC Flight Activity provides a unique development and integration capability to government agencies, academic institutions or industry partners with valid Defense Department missions.

    The new hangar and immediate surrounding area will include high-bay and low-bay aircraft hangars, aircraft-component maintenance shops, administrative facilities, a fixed-wing taxiway and a rotary-wing landing pad, said Henry Muller, CERDEC Intelligence and Information Warfare director.

    CERDEC I2WD Director Henry Muller, Rep. Chris Smith and Army Corps of Engineer-New York District Commander Col. Paul Owen break ground at the CERDEC Flight Activity Hangar groundbreaking ceremony at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst April 11.

    The space has “joint military-use potential” meaning that other Defense Department organizations could use the hangar, said Charles V. Maraldo, CERDEC I2WD Flight Activity director.

    The hangar will support future mission requirements of the CERDEC I2WD Flight Activity, which provides end-to-end aviation support for emerging C4ISR technologies, quick-reaction capabilities to units, and post-production aircraft modifications for program executive offices and project managers, said Maraldo.

    The increased capabilities and space will allow CERDEC to maintain and expand its support to Defense C4ISR-aviation systems programs.

    “CERDEC averages about 40 aircraft research and development modifications every year, and they take place up here providing those new capabilities to the Soldiers,” said Dale Ormond, RDECOM director.

    RDECOM, a major subordinate command of the Army Materiel Command, operates throughout the country and develops technology and engineering solutions for U.S. Soldiers.

    CERDEC Associate Director Robert Zanzalari, Rep. Jon Runyan and RDECOM Director Dale Ormond break ground at the CERDEC Flight Activity Hangar groundbreaking ceremony at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst April 11.

    “At RDECOM we are all about helping a guy or gal on point in the middle of nowhere, execute their mission and come home safely, and that’s what we do every day putting new capabilities in the hands of Soldiers,” said Dale Ormond, RDECOM director.

    The new hangar will allow for increased support for the Soldier.

    “As the guy who’s been on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan in a different role, you never really know what goes on behind the scenes to have the products and things you need to help you protect your Soldiers, save lives and execute your mission,” said Col. Paul Owen, Commander of the New York District of the Army Corps of Engineers.

    “As a Soldier on the ground we certainly realize the dedication and support of your organization [CERDEC] that goes into saving lives,” said Owen.

    CERDEC is part of RDECOM, 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, which 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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  • Unmanned vehicle demonstration showcases leap-ahead technology

    VIP's watched the Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System demonstration from the top of a building in the BOAZ Military Operations in Urban Terrain training site at Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo by Bruce J. Huffman)


    By Bruce J. Huffman, TARDEC Public Affairs


    DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. (March 21, 2014) — Working closely with Lockheed Martin and a conglomeration of Army technology, acquisition and user community stakeholders, the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center successfully demonstrated an unmanned military convoy Jan. 14 at Fort Hood, Texas.

    From a rooftop in the Fort Hood training area, military and industry VIPs saw firsthand how the Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System, or AMAS, enabled two driverless Palletized Loading System prime movers and an M915 tractor trailer truck to seamlessly interact with a manned Humvee gun truck escort. The convoy negotiated oncoming traffic, followed rules of the road, recognized and avoided pedestrians and various obstacles, and then used intelligence and decision-making abilities to re-route their direction through a maze of test areas to complete both complex urban and rural line haul missions.

    As the ground systems expert within the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, TARDEC develops, integrates and sustains the right technology solutions to address ever-changing threats and shifts in strategic, technological and fiscal environments. Flexibility and adaptability are vital to future systems, and AMAS is designed to provide a wide range of military vehicle platforms with optionally-manned capabilities that will increase safety and provide the warfighter with additional flexibility.

    “We’re not looking to replace Soldiers with robots. It’s about augmenting and increasing capability,” said Col. Chris Cross, chief of Science and Technology at the Army Capabilities Integration Center.

    During the Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System demo, VIP's saw autonomous vehicles negotiate live traffic, follow the rules of the road, recognize pedestrians and avoid various obstacles in both urban and rural test areas. (Photo by Bruce J. Huffman)

    Equipped with GPS, Light Detecting and Ranging systems, known as LIDAR, Automotive radar, a host of sensors and other high-tech hardware and software components, the common appliqué kit’s intelligence and autonomous decision-making abilities can be installed in practically any military vehicle, transforming an ordinary vehicle into an optionally manned version.

    AMAS can also keep personnel out of harm’s way and provide Soldiers on manned missions with increased situational awareness and other safety benefits. For instance, AMAS also features collision mitigation braking, lane-keeping assist and a roll-over warning system, electronic stability control and adaptive cruise control. During manned missions, these additional safety features could theoretically increase Soldier performance. The robotic mode frees up the vehicle crew to more closely watch for enemy threats, while still leaving them the option of manually taking control of the vehicle when necessary.

    “The AMAS hardware and software performed exactly as designed and dealt successfully with all of the real-world obstacles that a real-world convoy would encounter,” said AMAS Program Manager David Simon, with Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

    A Soldier from 3rd Cavalry Regiment programs an autonomous convoy using the Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System. (Photo by Bruce J. Huffman)

    AMAS development aligns with Army goals for the Future Force. At an Association of the United States Army breakfast in Arlington, Va., Jan. 23, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno talked about the Army Modernization Strategy and the difficult decisions ahead.

    “What is that leap-ahead technology that we need that could make a real difference for our Soldiers on the ground?” Odierno asked. “What is the technology that allows us to decrease the weight so we can be more expeditionary? I need tactical mobility for the future. We need to move towards mobility and try to determine how we sustain survivability while increasing mobility.”

    In his just-released CSA Strategic Priorities, Odierno added that we must prioritize Soldier-centered modernization and procurement of proven technologies so that Soldiers have the best weapons, equipment and protection to accomplish the mission.

    Another AMAS demonstration with more vehicles and more complex notional scenarios is scheduled for later this year.

    “We are very happy with the results, but the AMAS must undergo more testing before it becomes deployable,” said TARDEC AMAS Lead Engineer Bernard Theisen.

    “The vehicles and systems are replaceable, but nothing can replace the life of a Soldier. These systems keep Soldiers safe and make them more efficient,” he said.

    TARDEC is the ground systems expert within RDECOM. It provides engineering and scientific expertise for Department of Defense manned and autonomy-enabled ground systems and ground support systems; serves as the nation’s laboratory for advanced military automotive technology; and provides leadership for the Army’s advanced Science and Technology research, demonstration, development and full life cycle engineering efforts.

    The U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center and Lockheed Martin partnered with U.S. Central Command, Army Capabilities Integration Center, Combined Arms Support Command, and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, to demonstrate an autonomy-enabled technology that can help distance our warfighters from dangerous threats during convoy operations. On Jan. 14, 2014, they demonstrated the Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System and conducted an autonomous convoy at Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo by Glenn Helm, Lockheed Martin)


    TARDEC 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.

    TARDEC is also a TACOM Life Cycle Management Command partner. In this capacity, it is responsible for critical technology functions within the “acquisition — logistics — technology” system life-cycle model, including: technology maturation and integration; technology subject-matter expertise; systems-level engineering analysis; and systems engineering.

    TARDEC provides engineering support for more than 2,800 Army systems and many of the Army’s and DoD’s top joint development programs. The organization is responsible for maximizing the research, development, transition and sustainment of technologies and integration across ground systems.

    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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  • ‘Armed with Science’ pilot episode features defense breakthroughs

    Army Research Laboratory Senior Scientist Steven Kilczewski shows The Pentagon Channel's Steven Greisiger how he uses an ultrasonic mixer, pictured, to combine raw materials that will later be melted in the furnace to form a glass. (Photos by TJae Gibson, U.S. Army Research Laboratory)

    By U.S. Army Research Laboratory public affairs


    ADELPHI, Md. (March 10, 2014) — The Pentagon Channel’s pilot episode of Armed with Science is airing at 9 a.m., 1 p.m., and 5 p.m. (ET), today, and will delve into Army Research Laboratory and Naval Research Laboratory science that shapes the future of defense.

    The show takes viewers inside the minds of military scientists who improve national defense with infrared imaging, robotic satellite repair and novel weapons design during its debut.

    Defense producers from the Defense Media Activity conceptualized the program to shed light on the “seed corn of science and technology,” or basic and applied science.

    “‘Armed with Science’ tells the military’s story about scientific discovery and innovation that begins decades before an application reaches the military market,” said Thomas Moyer, U.S. Army Research Laboratory public affairs director. “The pilot will be successful if it gets people thinking about technological advances for our nation’s warfighters.”

    The best kept secret in innovation is the scientists and engineers behind the military’s scientific breakthroughs, Moyer said. “The American public often has no idea of the research and development that military scientists tirelessly put into a single application to protect men and women in uniform.”

    The pilot episode explores the Army’s super materials that operate across a spectrum of extreme environments to protect Soldiers against threats they haven’t seen yet. The materials that scientists and engineers design at an atomic scale will make up game-changing electronics, munitions and armor for the military of the future.

    Jared Wright, an engineer II, prepares a glass container from molten glass he pulled from an extremely high temperature furnace.

    In the show’s second segment, host George Zaidan visits the NRL Space Robotics Laboratory where scientists are developing robotic technology that can help repair, reposition, or update satellites that are beyond human reach, about 20,000 miles higher than the Hubble Space Telescope. These satellites are critical for Navy and Marine Corps operations, but cannot be repaired in orbit currently.

    The show wraps up with “super vision,” or enemy detection made easier and faster with infrared radiated light that gives Soldiers the capability to see when there is zero visibility. It took countless hours and the aid of the Army’s super computers to make thermal image detection good enough to detect very cold objects and fast-moving targets. The Army scientists behind the technology talk about how the discovery was made.

    The Pentagon Channel will show encore airings of the pilot episode March 13, at 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m., and 10:30 p.m. at http://www.pentagonchannel.mil/LiveStream.aspx.

    The U.S. Army Research Laboratory of the U.S. Army Research Development and Engineering Command is the Army’s corporate laboratory, consisting of more than 1,900 federal employees (nearly 1,300 classified as scientific and engineering) and is headquartered in Adelphi, Md. The laboratory’s in-house experts work with academia and industry providing the largest source of world-class integrated research and analysis in the Army. For more information, visit the ARL homepage or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

    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.

    The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory is the Navy’s full-spectrum corporate laboratory, conducting a broadly based multidisciplinary program of scientific research and advanced technological development. The Laboratory, with a total complement of nearly 2,800 personnel, is located in southwest Washington, D.C., with other major sites at the Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Monterey, Calif. NRL has served the Navy and the nation for more than 90 years and continues to meet the complex technological challenges of today’s world. For more information, visit the NRL homepage or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

    The Pentagon Channel's Stephen Greisiger captures Jared Wright, an engineer II, as he prepares a glass container from molten glass he pulled from an extremely high temperature furnace. Size, shape and composition all play an important role in the behavioral and material response of glass on the total armor design.

    The Pentagon Channel is the Department of Defense’s satellite television channel, and broadcasts military news and information programs to about 2.6 million members of the U.S. armed forces – active duty, National Guard and Reserve. It airs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Pentagon Channel is available to more than 1.3 million service members on more than 370 military bases, camps and installations in the U.S. The channel is also available to the 800,000 service members and their families serving overseas in 177 countries via the American Forces Radio and Television Service.

    The Pentagon Channel reaches more than 30 million households through commercial distribution on satellite and cable systems nationwide. DISH Network, Verizon FiOS and divisions of Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Charter, Mediacom, RCN, Armstrong, Midcontinent, Knology, GCI, and a number of smaller cable companies and local access channels in communities around the country carry the Pentagon Channel. In addition, Pentagon Channel programming is streamed live 24/7 at http://www.pentagonchannel.mil, and its programming is available on video-on-demand, and podcast from this website.

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  • Picatinny scaling up in-house chemicals production to shun higher costs

    The 30 Gallon Glass-Lined Nitration Reactor. (Photo by Todd Mozes)

    By Audra Calloway


    ROCKAWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (March 10, 2014) — Picatinny scientists and engineers have established a pilot production facility to create the Army’s only in-house process for scaling up chemical compounds, a move that could save money by not having to rely on costlier compounds from outside suppliers.

    The Picatinny engineers are manufacturing tetranitrocarbazole, or TNC, the compound that serves as the “first-fire” composition for pyrotechnics, such as illumination rounds, signal grenades, mortars and artillery rounds.

    The “first fire” is what starts ignition within the system.

    “This is the only pilot facility like it in the Army, and ARDEC is trying to leverage its expertise for developing manufacturing processes,” explained Stacey Yauch, chemical engineer with the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC.

    “Most of the military’s explosive manufacturing processes are developed by the contractors,” explained Yauch.

    “An ARDEC engineer might develop the compound, but the manufacturing process is typically developed by the contractor,” Yauch explained. “It’s difficult for the government to find competition between sources to get a better price because the contractor who develops the process always has an upper hand in the competition.

    “If we develop the process here, we can then provide it to industry to attract potential manufacturers, which would mitigate risk to manufacturers on process development cost and time.”

    Development of the process to produce TNC scale up is being done by ARDEC and the Program Executive Office Ammunition’s Project Manager Joint Services.

    The pilot-scale production process will be developed in the Flexible Nitration Facility at ARDEC. The production process will be optimized, documented, and transitioned to a full-scale facility to produce TNC at Crane Army Ammunition Activity, Crane, Ind.

    The pilot “scale up” first began in a lab with chemists creating grams of TNC initially, eventually working up to two pounds of the substance. While in the lab, the engineers recorded data such as heat rates, reaction times and temperature, and optimized the process as best they could.

    Next, ARDEC transitioned the lab scale process to the pilot manufacturing facility that includes crystallization and nitration equipment.

    “At this point it’s not a lab anymore,” Yauch said, “You’re not working with beakers and test tubes. It’s regular equipment used in industry, but at a smaller scale. Once it leaves this stage it evolves to full-scale production.”

    So far, Yauch and her team have successfully produced small quantities of TNC. The next step is to reproduce a couple of batches at the 10-to-20-pound scale.

    “Right now we’re in 20- or 30-gallon reaction sizes,” Yauch said. “When you’re at a 10 or 20-pound scale you can start modeling what will happen at full scale when you’re making thousands of pounds.”

    However, the process at the pilot production facility is different than the process working in a lab due to the nature of the different equipment.

    “You have a general optimization of your temperatures and times, but it will change when you bring it up to this scale,” Yauch explained. “There’s a learning curve. Initially we didn’t get amount of TNC expected, so we stopped to determine the cause we were able to determine the reaction was not complete due to low temperature and short residence time. Once the problem was identified, we were able to obtain purer product on the second trial.”

    The TNC process created by ARDEC could be ready to transition to manufacturers by the end of March 2014.

    Once the TNC production process is completed, it will be transferred to the Project Manager Combat Ammunition System for use in mortar and illumination rounds.

    • ARDEC 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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  • Army researchers inspire commercial rifle fire control systems

    Shown is the precision-guided firearm. (Photo courtesy of TrackingPoint)

    By Joyce M. Conant, ARL Public Affairs

    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Jan. 28, 2014) — Researchers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory go about their business every day working on projects to help better serve the military and its members who protect our country. Sometimes the research inspires commercial companies to do additional research and expand on certain aspects to develop products of their own.

    That is what happened with ARL’s research called “Inertial Reticle Technology” where researchers who were then in the Weapons and Materials Research Directorate developed a concept to apply advanced fire control technology to sniper weapons.

    As a result of this concept, a modern fire control system for rifles was developed by a Texas-based company, which later partnered with another prominent gun manufacturer. Their partnership allowed for the development of a new shooting system, which they claim may just revolutionize how targets are acquired. It is called the precision guided firearm.

    According to an article in American Rifleman, dated Dec. 17, 2013, a new integrated rifle and sighting system was introduced in January 2013, in which a video screen scope with an internal laser rangefinder to measure the distance to the target and, using the latest in digital technology, factors in temperature, barometric pressure, incline/decline, cant, air density, spin drift, target movement and effect drift.

    Raymond Von Wahlde, aerospace engineer, Vehicle Technology Directorate, learned about this discovery through his former colleagues Lucian Sadowski and Dr. Stephen Small both from Joint Service Small Arms Program who managed a project in the 1990′s known as, “Project White Feather.”

    Dr. Small named the project as a tribute to famed sniper Gunnery Sgt. Carlos N. Hathcock II, also known as “White Feather.” Von Wahlde found that the new rifle was very similar to the technology he had coauthored a white paper on with Dennis Metz from EAI Corporation in August 1999, titled “Sniper Weapon Fire Control Error Budget Analysis,” data from which was included on the company’s website.

    Shown is the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Inertial Reticle Technology prototype.

    Von Wahlde contacted the company to see if those who developed their precision-guided firearms were aware of the SOCOM-sponsored project known as “Project White Feather.”

    Von Wahlde said in his message, “…we called it the ‘Inertial Reticle.’ It was the brain child of Dr. Mark Kregel. Might the precision guided firearm trace its ancestry back at least in part to ‘Project White Feather?’”

    Von Wahlde went on to say, “Your videos look remarkably like ours did back in the day. I am impressed with your implementation. We utilized actual inertial sensors on the weapon to stabilize the desired aim point. I like your image processing method for doing so. Your solution to trigger pull is elegant. We replaced the trigger with a switch that armed the system. A solenoid actually pulled the trigger. That was one of the least liked features of our prototype by the users. Adjusting the trigger force is brilliant.”

    Within a couple of days, Von Wahlde received a message back from the company.

    “Thank you very much for your email. I appreciate your work — Project White Feather continues to be the best compilation and serious study of sniper performance data that I am aware of. We make everyone on the team read it. Thanks for your interest, would love to show you the system sometime,” said Bret Boyd, vice president of sales and marketing, TrackingPoint.

    Von Wahlde who was project engineer for much of the testing said he gives a lot of credit to his former colleagues.

    “The technology was the brain child of Dr. Mark Kregel (now retired) and along with Tom Haug (also retired) and Tim Brosseau from WMRD, they constructed the prototype systems for the IRT (Inertial Reticle Technology),” said Von Wahlde. “I am honored to be part of a team that served as an inspiration for these systems.”


    • 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. 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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  • Army fuel reformation looks to increase efficiency, save lives

    RDECOM CERDEC hosts defense partners for a demo of the Solid Oxide Fuel Cell 10 kW power unit. It exhibits high efficiency, a low acoustic signature, a low visible signature, and weighs less than the Army’s current 10 kW Tactical Quiet Generator Set. (U.S. Army CERDEC Photo/ Allison Barrow)

    By Allison Barrow and Joyce Brayboy


    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – Fuel is the second largest transported item in the field next to water. As a result, fuel truck convoys that deliver fuel are vulnerable to enemy attacks, which have resulted in loss of money, time and lives.

    To combat this problem, scientists and engineers from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command are working to lessen the reliance on fuel truck convoys by reducing the amount of military fuel, called jet propellant 8, or JP-8, the Army needs in theater and improving the efficiency of its use.

    One way they are doing this is through reforming JP-8 so that it can be used in efficient portable energy systems, like fuel cells and other novel power sources, which primarily operate on hydrogen or other cleaner fuels.

    “The goal is to take the logistic fuel that’s already all over the battlefield, that’s there and available to the Soldiers, and convert it to something that can be used in smaller and renewable systems,” said Steve Slane, RDECOM’s communications-electronics center, or CERDEC, Command, Power and Integration (CP&I) Directorate, Power Generation and Alternative Energy Branch chief.

    Engineers and scientists from CERDEC, along with RDECOM’s Army Research Laboratory and Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center are working to reform JP-8 and integrate it into systems so it can be converted seamlessly and locally.

    “Fuel reforming is one of those leap-ahead technologies that could allow JP-8 to be transformed into valuable fuels that can be used and generated on the battlefield forward. So instead of shipping propane and methanol and kerosene and gasoline, why not reform JP-8 locally to power those systems?” said Slane.

    The process of reforming fuel entails high-temperature catalytic reactions that covert a liquid fuel, in this case JP-8, into a lighter, gaseous fuel.

    Dr. Dat Tran, U.S. Army Research Laboratory electro-chemistry, is focused on extracting sulfur from JP8, or Jet Propellant 8, a fuel widely used in the Army. (U.S. Army ARL Photo/Joyce P. Brayboy)

    This comes with two main challenges because of the sulfur contained in JP-8 and its complex composition, said Dr. Terry DuBois, subject matter expert in fuel reforming and combustion in CERDEC CP&I’s Power Division.

    First, sulfur can deactivate catalysts, which means it can limit the life or poison catalysts during the reforming process and make it inoperable. Second, sulfur can accelerate carbon formation, where solid carbon particles form in the reactor, clog the flow of the reactor or deactivate catalysts and cause it to fail, said DuBois.
    “Those are two big challenges for us in reforming; how do we transform JP-8 to a hydrogen-rich stream and deal with the two mechanisms for killing the reactor?” said DuBois.

    This fuel transformation effort is a main focus for CERDEC, TARDEC and ARL.

    The challenge is developing a practical fuel reformation process for better energy conversion that would have to be portable, quick and easy to use, said Dr. Zachary Dunbar, an ARL fuel cell team member.

    Dr. Dat Tran, ARL fuel cell team lead, has tested at least 300 different combinations of materials during the last four years while he has been investigating fuel reforming with the team, he said.

    “JP-8 is a complicated and dirty fuel. The sulfur is a huge problem because it can hurt the fuel cells,” Tran said. “Sulfur has many different compounds that behave differently. The compounds in sulfur make it hard to find an agreeable material.”

    While ARL conducts the basic research of fuel reforming, CERDEC integrates the basic research into a system and evaluates it, while also performing further research and development of fuel reforming materials.

    The Reformer Test Bed is used for catalyst and process condition evaluation of fuel reformers. (U.S. Army CERDEC Photo)

    “Both of the efforts that we have ongoing are focused on addressing desulfurization of JP-8, and ARL is pursuing complimentary R&D on unique materials for sulfur absorption. In addition, ARL is looking at membranes that can selectively separate hydrogen from the gaseous reformed fuel stream so that you have a pure hydrogen stream,” said DuBois.

    “CERDEC’s in-house program is looking at catalytic materials. So we have ongoing research work evaluating different catalytic materials and how well they stand up to chemical compounds found in JP-8. We are also evaluating sulfur absorbent materials and processes on a long-term basis,” said DuBois.

    TARDEC also works in fuel reforming by integrating it into fuel cell power systems.

    “The main applications are combat and tactical vehicle Auxiliary Power Units, silent propulsion for unmanned ground systems and extending the silent range of electric vehicles for scout or reconnaissance missions,” said Kevin Centeck, TARDEC Nonprimary Power Systems team lead.

    “TARDEC is also investigating the requirements for a fuel reformation system to be integrated with a commercial automotive fuel cell stack, which could help reduce cost and increase reliability of fuel cell power systems,” said Centeck.

    CERDEC, ARL and TARDEC collaborate on their fuel reforming efforts for the Army through fuel cell test and integration working groups with other Defense Department partners through quarterly program and design reviews.

    CERDEC is taking fuel reforming one step further by working to integrate its efforts into its Energy Informed Operations, or EIO, initiative, which aims to make power systems “smart” by enabling “smarter” monitoring on the systems as well as integrating them into a smart tactical microgrid.

    This smart technology will enable and inform Soldiers with data such as, “How much fuel do I have left? When are the fuel trucks coming next? What’s my energy status?” said Slane.

    “The efficiencies gained by using grid data to control power and inform operations will increase availability and reliability of power while reducing the burden of fuel logistics, storage and cost,” said Slane. “CERDEC CP&I is uniquely qualified to cover all this because we have our mechanical engineers who are working fuel reformation and combustion but we also have engineers within the mission command community here working on intelligent micro-grids through EIO.”

    RDECOM will continue to work to address the challenges with fuel reforming and integrate it into a full power system that can then be transitioned to the field.

    “Reducing the amount of fuel is really a goal of what this organization is about,” said Slane. “Fuel reforming is one of the key technology areas that will enable us to reduce fuel on the battlefield, reduce the amount of truck convoys, the amount of storage needed and the cost of operating in austere environments.”

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  • 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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  • New method uses water, motion to develop delicious military food

    Frank DiLeo, U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, prepares to use a new retort food processing system at the DOD Combat Feeding Directorate in Natick, Mass. (Photo Credit: David Kamm)

    By Alexandra Foran, NSRDEC Public Affairs


    NATICK, Mass. (Sept. 17, 2013) — One of life’s greatest necessities, water, is a key ingredient for the new gentle motion retort used by the Combat Feeding Directorate at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center to develop Meals, Ready-to-Eat and Tray Pack products.

    This simple molecule is heated to 240 degrees Fahrenheit in order to cook and sterilize foods using one of three different thermal processing methods.

    After the successful “retort” process items do not require refrigeration because they have achieved commercial sterilization, the removal of certain pathogenic organisms.

    The retort vessel installed at the NSRDEC in January 2013 can process 195 eight-ounce Meal, Ready-to-Eat, or MRE, pouches, or 20 six-pound polymeric Tray Packs at a time using water immersion, saturated steam, water spray or water spray with gentle motion.

    During the water immersion mode water fills the processing vessel, which holds up to 185 gallons, and completely submerges the product. This water is then heated to 240 degrees Fahrenheit and held for a prescribed period of time. In the steam process saturated steam is injected into the vessel.

    The water spray mode utilizes three steam “sparges” located at the bottom of the processing vessel to shower the packaged food product with hot water at high pressure. Through each of these methods heat penetrates the sealed pouches or trays, eventually reaching the point of product sterilization.

    Products typically cook in the processing vessel using either method for approximately 45 to 85 minutes. A cool down phase also occurs prior to removal of the product from the vessel.

    In the newest, most novel method, water spray with gentle motion, showering the product with hot water is followed by introduction of the motion factor, where the vessel rocks the product back and forth at up to 50 strokes per minute.

    “Using the water spray with gentle motion method, we’re shortening the total processing time,” said Frank DiLeo, physical scientist on the Combat Rations Team. “If you reduce processing time, you’re saving money and electricity. Also, the spray water is recycled, so there’s not a lot of waste involved in this particular mode.”

    Different products do require different processing times in the retort because of the quantity and density of the food products that go into the packages.

    “Rice is a very dense product compared to a beef stew, which has a lot of free liquid,” said DiLeo. “Free liquid is important because it helps with heat transfer. Heat penetration will inactivate and destroy the pathogens. Minimizing the processing time improves the quality of the product, most notably the flavor and appearance.”

    Although cook time is mandated by the Food and Drug Administration to ensure the inactivation of pathogenic organisms and achievement of commercial stability, the gentle motion retort can reduce the total processing time by up to 40 percent because the heating and cooling times are shorter than with most other processes.

    This laboratory-sized retort vessel also streamlines the new product development and testing process, as similar gentle motion retorts are now used by the commercial vendors producing MRE pouches and Tray Packs for the military.

    “Now, at the bench level, we can design products and process them the same as our vendors would,” said DiLeo. “You’re reducing the barriers to scale-up because you have a more industry-compatible system.”

    Transitioning shelf-stable food products from the research and development level to vendors and ultimately to warfighters has been made easier at Natick.

    Researchers said the new retort vessel helps to ensure new food products developed by the Combat Feeding Directorate are not only safe to consume, but also thermally processed in a much more efficient manner. Warfighters may soon see more visually appealing, nutritious and delicious shelf-stable ready-to-eat foods, they said.


    • NSRDEC 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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  • Army’s manufacturing improvements yield lighter body armor

    Dr. Shawn Walsh, Agile Manufacturing Technology team leader at Army Research Laboratory, displays a flexible sample that has been locally consolidated using a novel process method at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., Aug. 14, 2013. (Photo Credit: Conrad Johnson, RDECOM)

    By Dan Lafontaine


    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Soldiers facing rugged terrain and extreme temperatures are continually searching for ways to reduce the weight of their gear.

    In a search for solutions to this persistent issue, U.S. Army scientists and engineers have preliminarily demonstrated body armor that is 10 percent lighter through new manufacturing processes.

    The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, known as RDECOM, along with its industry partners, has leveraged the Army’s Manufacturing Technology Program to spur the Advanced Body Armor Project.

    Dr. Shawn Walsh leads the project at RDECOM’s Army Research Laboratory, or ARL, where his team has reduced the weight of a size medium Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert plate from 5.45 pounds to 4.9 pounds.

    Dr. Shawn Walsh, Agile Manufacturing Technology team leader at Army Research Laboratory, compares the traditional one-piece ceramic body armor (right) and a prototype flexible armor concept made possible by ManTech processes at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., Aug. 14, 2013. (Photo Credit: Conrad Johnson, RDECOM)

    While the Army leads the research, the new armor will also benefit the Marine Corps, Air Force, Navy and U.S. Special Operations Command, with similar body-armor requirements. In addition, highly novel technology initially identified by the Army has since been supported by SOCOM, pervasively benefiting lightweight body-armor goals overall.

    “The armor the Soldier is wearing right now is the best armor we can possibly give them,” said Walsh, the Agile Manufacturing Technology team leader within the Weapons and Material Research Directorate. “The one concern that we hear about it — can you make it lighter? That’s the number one request. We don’t want to compromise the protection, but want to reduce the weight. It’s a challenging problem, and ARL should take on high-risk programs like that.”

    The current weight-reduction technologies in the laboratory were impractical for mass production and fielding, Walsh said. The project focused on developing manufacturing methods that resolve these issues.

    To accomplish this weight reduction, researchers pushed advances in composites, ceramics and component integration. All the materials must work in tandem to provide the necessary performance characteristics — stopping the bullet, managing the bullet’s momentum, and preventing trauma to the wearer.

    Project Manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, or PM SPIE, had requested lighter body armor several times but did not receive a satisfactory response from industry, Walsh said.

    Rob Learsch (left), a Massachusetts Institute of Technology student and Army Research Laboratory summer intern, and Dr. Shawn Walsh, Agile Manufacturing Technology team leader at ARL, are preparing to run the Dissimilar Materials Assembly System, a fully automated machine for assembling complex layers of materials to improve overall body-armor performance, at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., Aug. 14, 2013. (Photo Credit: Conrad Johnson, RDECOM)

    “That’s an indicator that there’s a technology gap,” Walsh said. “We realized there is something that the [project manager] wants for the Soldier, but can’t get from industry. Maybe it’s inherently not achievable, or maybe people haven’t tried an innovative approach. We assumed the latter. In our particular case, we used processing technology as a method for achieving these weight reductions.”

    ARL turned to the ManTech program and the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Defense-Wide Manufacturing Science and Technology, or DMS&T, programs for this challenge that was “beyond the normal risk of industry.” The ManTech program provides funding for the Army’s research and engineering organizations to partner with the defense industrial base to overcome manufacturing obstacles and deliver new capabilities into Soldiers’ hands.

    “The ManTech and DMS&T programs give us a unique opportunity,” Walsh said. “We knew there were some untapped potential technologies, and manufacturing would be the integration step. ManTech offers industry a catalyst. This program allowed them to exercise some of their novel technologies they want to try. It’s an incentive to take a little risk.”

    “The armor the Soldier is wearing right now is the best armor we can possibly give them.”

    Because the Army does not manufacture equipment, it must ensure there are companies capable of meeting production demands, Walsh said. Researchers need a plan to transition novel technologies from the laboratory bench, to a manufacturer’s shop floor, and then to Soldiers in the field.

    “I treat industry as part of a team,” he said. “The power of ManTech is that we can prove that the thing we want to buy can be made. As simple as it sounds, that’s very critical. It costs a lot of money to put a new specification out there, only to be disappointed and find out that no one can make it.”

    Walsh emphasized that ARL partnered with PM SPIE; RDECOM’s Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center; and the six commercial manufacturers for these breakthroughs.

    Fred Racine (left), an Army Research Laboratory contractor technician, and Rob Learsch, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology student and ARL summer intern, prepare ballistic targets from new materials supplied by ManTech contractors at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., Aug. 14, 2013. (Photo Credit: Conrad Johnson, RDECOM)

    ARL initially worked with PM SPIE to demonstrate a solution was feasible, then to confirm technology transition paths. Walsh aims to insert the body-armor improvements into PM SPIE’s Soldier Protection System initiative.

    The strategy of the Advanced Body Armor Project has been to focus on transitioning the improved processes directly to the industrial base. This will ensure the body-armor companies are able to respond to requests for information and proposals based on manufacturing advances accomplished through ManTech.

    “We’ve created an environment for innovation and incubated some of these very promising technologies,” Walsh said. “They can take their own intellectual property and integrate it with ours to get the best solution. We’ve maximized technology transfer for each dollar we invested.

    “That was our strategy — to co-develop the technology with industry,Walsh continued. “It’s a direct transfer. They’re directly exercising our ManTech technologies in preparation for body-armor weight reduction goals like those defined in the Soldier Protection System.”

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