[author type="author"]Tracy Robillard[/author]
Soldiers now have capabilities to engage the enemy far more effectively during nighttime operations, following the recent full materiel release (FMR) of three infrared (IR) illuminating rounds.
The term FMR signifies that the Army has rigorously tested and evaluated the item and determined that it is completely safe, operationally suitable, and logistically supportable for use by Soldiers.
[quote align="left"]IR illumination burns longer and significantly increases the area of battlefield illumination, and its performance is less sensitive to temperature and firing conditions compared to the standard visible light illumination.[/quote]
The M1064 105mm IR Illuminating Cartridge, the M1066 155mm IR Illuminating Projectile, and the M992 40mm IR Illuminant Cartridge were approved for FMR via Program Executive Office Ammunition (PEO Ammo), headquartered at Picatinny Arsenal, NJ.
“PEO Ammo manages and oversees the acquisition and life cycle of all conventional ammunition for U.S. warfighters,” said BG Jonathan A. Maddux, Picatinny Arsenal Commanding General and Program Executive Officer Ammunition. “Products like infrared illuminating cartridges and projectiles are just a few examples of how we strive to be leaders in providing the best conventional, leap-ahead munitions that bring new and more effective capabilities to our joint warfighters.”
Illuminating cartridges, or pyrotechnic flares, have been widely used by militaries for years, but they have previously only provided light in the visible spectrum, which the enemy can use as well. The Army’s new IR illuminating cartridges and projectiles produce IR light that is invisible to the naked eye, but is clearly visible through night vision devices that U.S. Soldiers use in Iraq and Afghanistan.[image align="right" caption="Soldiers can engage the enemy more effectively at night because of the three new IR illuminating cartridges/projectiles. From left: M992 40mm IR, M1066 155 mm IR, and M1064 105mm IR. (Photo courtesy of Picatinny Arsenal Public Affairs.)" linkto="/web/wp-content/uploads/110411_photo01.jpg" linktype="image"]“/web/wp-content/uploads/110411_photo01.jpg” height=”231″ width=”246″[/image]
With the FMR of these three cartridges and projectiles, the U.S. Army now has visible light and IR capability for all calibers of mortars, artillery, and 40mm ammunition.
The IR illuminating munitions were developed at Picatinny Arsenal by the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC), which developed and fielded the world’s first-ever IR illuminating munitions in 2002 (the 60mm M766, 81mm M816, and 120mm M983 IR Mortar Illuminating Cartridges).
“IR illumination burns longer and significantly increases the area of battlefield illumination, and its performance is less sensitive to temperature and firing conditions compared to the standard visible light illumination,” said James L. Wejsa, Chief of ARDEC’s Pyrotechnic Technology and Prototyping Division, which led the pyrotechnic formulation, design, and qualification testing of the candle assembly for these mortar and artillery IR illuminating munitions.
Following are profiles of the three new IR illuminating rounds.
M1064 105mm IR Illuminating Cartridge
Approved for FMR in December, this cartridge gives Soldiers enhanced covert capability over the current 105mm M314A3 Illuminating Cartridge.
Fired from an M119 series howitzer, it provides more than 2.5 times the diameter of IR illumination compared with the visible light produced by the M314A3. The new cartridge also allows Soldiers to use both IR light and visible light capabilities without firing adjustments.
“IR illumination increases mobility during night operations, allowing the commander to shape tactical engagements, mass effects, and support maneuverability from disparate locations and lessen overreliance on direct fires,” said William Vogt, Project Officer for Mortars and Artillery Illumination under Project Manager Combat Ammunition Systems.
The Army has 2,300 new cartridges in its inventory and plans to procure an additional 5,500 by the end of FY11, followed by approximately 3,000 cartridges every other year.
M1066 155mm IR Illuminating Projectile
Approved for FMR in October, this artillery projectile provides approximately 120 seconds of IR illumination and two times the diameter of effective illumination when compared with the 155mm M485A2 Visible Light projectile currently in the U.S. inventory.
Fired from a 155mm howitzer system, the new projectile gives warfighters the opportunity to use both IR and visible light.
The Army and U.S. Marine Corps have 10,000 of the new projectiles in their inventory, and beginning in FY11, they will procure 10,000 every other year.
M992 40mm IR Illuminant Cartridge
Also approved for FMR in October, this cartridge provides an illumination and signaling capability via an IR candle—a first for the M203 and M320 40mm grenade launchers. The round can also be fired from the legacy M79 40mm grenade launcher.
[quote align="right"]IR illumination increases mobility during night operations, allowing the commander to shape tactical engagements, mass effects, and support maneuverability from disparate locations and lessen overreliance on direct fires.[/quote]
“The M992 provides a capability not previously available to the Soldier that takes advantage of U.S. Armed Forces technology to improve nighttime operation success,” said Gregory Bubniak, Project Officer for 40mm Ammunition under Project Manager Maneuver Ammunition Systems, which manages the M992 program. “It enhances night operation capabilities of troops equipped with night vision equipment, while producing minimal visual signature outside of the IR spectrum. This will allow users to access the approximately 90,000 cartridges available in inventory.”
The Army plans to field approximately 22,000 M992 cartridges in 2011.
For more information, visit the PEO Ammo website at http://www.pica.army.mil/
peoammo/Home.aspx or the ARDEC website at http://www.pica.army.mil/picatinnypublic/
- TRACY ROBILLARD was a Picatinny Arsenal Public Affairs Specialist at the time this article was written. She currently works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District Public Affairs Office. Robillard holds a B.A. in mass communications from the University of West Georgia.