Holston Army Ammunition Plant, a government-owned contractor-operated facility in Tennessee manufactures RDX and HMX explosives for ammunition production. (Photo courtesy of JPEO Armaments & Ammunition, Project Director Joint Services)
DOD ammunition production facilities will get critical modernization effort to sustain production.
by Matthew T. Zimmerman and Gabriela Dory, Ph.D.
“You’ve got to come up with a plan. You can’t wish things will get better.” —Jack Welch.
Facility modernization is critical for sustaining U.S. military ammunition production operations of both legacy and next generation ammunition. The Department of Defense currently has six active government-owned, contractor-operated (GOCO) ammunition production facilities, of which most have been in operation since World War II. As these ammunition plants serve a vital role in protecting the nation’s security, developing a long-term modernization strategy is necessary for ensuring the continued success of these facilities in the future.
The Joint Program Executive Office Armaments and Ammunition (JPEO A&A) in Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, produces an annual strategic plan for modernizing ammunition production facilities using “procurement of ammunition, Army” funding. The Army Ammunition Plant Modernization Plan, delivered to Congress in March, provides the management framework for modernization planning, key objectives and end states, project identification and prioritization process, and modernization requirements for each GOCO Army ammunition plant.
SETTING STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES
The strategy centers on meeting the following objectives:
- Increase manufacturing safety and readiness to meet current and future
- Modernize and transform production processes, incorporating best practices from
- Isolate energetic mass from
- Remove personnel from energetic operations and replace manual operations with
- Ensure graceful degradation and resilient
- Design production processes to minimize the concentration of energetic materials in any one
- Incorporate redundancy where possible and
- Improve flexibility, maintainability and
- Integrate state-of-the-art technology and
- Implement a proactive preventive maintenance program and use predictive maintenance to improve overall system performance and sustainability.
- Design production lines that can be alternatively used for multiple products with minimum retooling and reconfiguration of the physical system.
- Reduce cost of
- Identify processes and equipment that reduce the cost of operating the
- Identify efficiencies to reduce labor, material, and energy
- Secure supply chain
- Mitigate single point
- Investigate S.-based production and vertical integration.
Each year, modernization projects are prioritized based on scoring calculated from weighted criteria and measured against two factors: first, the significance of mitigating the deficiency or consequence if the project is not executed (i.e., magnitude of the benefit or consequence), and second, the likelihood or probability the benefit or consequence will occur if the project is not executed. These two metrics are multiplied, along with the corresponding scoring criteria weight, and then summed to produce a final score as illustrated in Figure 1.
Immediate safety and environmental compliance issues are considered “must-fund projects” and are prioritized above all other projects.
Project ranking is a critical process to ensure that funding is used in the most effective and efficient way possible. More than 100 modernization projects valued at $1.5 billion are in execution, and the March Army Ammunition Plant Modernization Plan identified nearly 400 projects valued at over $10 billion.
The Figure 2 graph shows historical and projected resourcing for the Army Ammunition Plant Modernization Program to address more than $10 billion in modernization requirements.
Sample Army ammunition plant modernization projects include the following:
- Holston Army Ammunition Plant—Explosives capacity expansion, including new acid, nitration, wash, filter and kettle drying facilities.
- Radford Army Ammunition Plant—Construction of a world-class nitrocellulose production facility. Nitrocellulose is a critical ingredient used in all propellants.
- Lake City Army Ammunition Plant—Design and construction of a Next Generation Squad Weapon 6.8 mm production facility in support of the Army’s Cross Functional Team for Soldier Lethality.
- Iowa Army Ammunition Plant—Design and construction of an artillery melt pour production facility in support of the Army’s Cross Functional Team for Long Range Precision Fires.
- Scranton Army Ammunition Plant—New production lines to support the XM series 155 mm artillery projectiles and Cross Functional Team for Long Range Precision Fires.
Although the Army’s modernization efforts to date have resulted in an improved industrial base, critical infrastructure and manufacturing process upgrades are still required to support the warfighter’s ammunition requirements and address the 1940s vintage infrastructure. Such infrastructure is still being used at GOCO Army ammunition plants and is consistently being evaluated for upgrades and reconstruction. Radford Army Ammunition Plant, for example, is undergoing key water infrastructure upgrades to better support current ammunition production requirements and meet the Army’s ammunition needs for the future multidomain-operations-capable force. Water is vital to Army ammunition plant operation for acid and materials production, fire suppression and human consumption. Without an adequate supply of water, the Army ammunition plants could not operate. Equally important is the handling or treatment of wastewater. Wastewater must be properly treated to bring it within state and federal water quality standards before discharge. Therefore, water sourcing, use and treatment are crucial infrastructure factors that must be considered to meet future demands.
To support current and future water needs, the Army set out to restore and rebuild the Radford Army Ammunition Plant water supply treatment and distribution system. This project began in 2014 when JPEO A&A first began assessing Radford Army Ammunition Plant’s water demands and water supply treatment, manufacturing and distribution infrastructure. Based on this data, JPEO A&A then developed a water utility restoration strategy that would meet future operational requirements in compliance with federal, state and local regulations, including the 1972 Clean Water Act provisions and those provisions set by the Virginia Department of the Environmental Quality governing intake velocity (a velocity below 0.5 feet per second reduces mortality rate for local aquatic life and helps to maintain a healthy ecosystem).
Specific upgrades to the new raw water intake system included new electrical controls and wiring; four new high-efficiency pumps; new piping; new raw water mains; self-cleaning strainers; cone check valves; throttling, isolation, and safety valves; new motors; variable frequency drives (for pump motors); motor control center with switchgears; and new flow meters. BAE Systems completed this $17.8 million upgrade in March.
It is critical for facilities to meet ammunition production requirements while ensuring workforce safety, especially for those involved in inherently dangerous explosives operations. Recent years have seen a significant amount of modernization funding aimed at recapitalizing the Army ammunition plants. In these aging facilities, unique equipment used for explosive and energetic materials is experiencing unplanned downtime or even obsolescence because it has aged beyond the point where maintenance can ensure production continuity. Therefore, construction of new facilities is critical for enabling continued production of ammunition.
This is especially evident at Holston Army Ammunition Plant in Tennessee where a recent expansion project will upgrade and rebuild multiple explosives production processes for the increased production of research department explosive also known as royal demolition explosive or RDX—the most commonly used synthetic chemical compound that can be used as a base charge for detonators among other uses—and high melting explosive or HMX, which explodes at temperatures above 534°F. Improvements include a new nitration facility where crude explosives are generated, a new melt cast facility for the manufacture of insensitive munitions explosives formulations (munitions designed to withstand shock from adjacent detonating munitions) and a new kettle drying operation, which will increase drying capacity for CMX-7 a premix for PBXN-107 (a plastic-bonded explosive), bomb fill, as well as other explosives.
Increased funding levels required to maintain the Army ammunition plants is necessary based on production requirements and the amount of recapitalization needed to modernize these facilities for the future. Impacts from global events, supply chain disruptions and inflation have made strategic planning and reliable budget estimating more important. The Army ammunition plant modernization plan provides a strategic investment strategy to ensure ammunition manufacturing readiness now and in the future.
For more information, contact Matthew T. Zimmerman, email@example.com.
MATTHEW T. ZIMMERMAN supports the Joint Program Executive Office Armaments and Ammunition, Project Director Joint Services. He is responsible for an annual procurement and Research, Development, Test & Evaluation budget for the GOCO Army ammunition plant acquisition strategies and modernization program, demilitarization program, manufacturing technology and prototyping activities, and integrating the DOD’s Single Manager for Conventional Ammunition responsibilities. He has a Master in Engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology, a Master in Technology Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School & Moore School, and a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the Pennsylvania State University. He has completed the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government program and the Defense Acquisition University Senior Service College Fellowship. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and has attained the advanced program management DAWIA certification.
GABRIELA DORY, Ph.D. supports the Project Director Joint Services. She has over 15 years of civil service with the U.S. Army supporting Research, Development, Test & Evaluation, acquisition and program management for the industrial base, including expertise in environmental permitting and production base management support. She has a Ph.D. in environmental science from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, a M.S in environmental and waste management from Stony Brook University, and a B.S. in biology from Union College.