Soldier Armed: Non-standard ammunition
You might be surprised to learn that last year, the U.S. Army delivered close to 70 million rounds of ammunition for the AK-47 rifle and PKM machine gun.
The fact is, many coalition partners around the world are equipped with an array of systems not found in standard U.S. inventories. And meeting the ammunition needs of many of those partners falls to the Army’s Office of Product Director for Non-Standard Ammunition.
According to Lt. Col. Lawrence Dring III, who runs the product office under the Project Manager for Maneuver Ammunition Systems within the Program Executive Office (PEO) Ammunition, the product office was established in 2008 to give acquisition oversight to the purchase of “non- DoD” munitions, primarily in support of U.S. allies fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“We are providing our allies with the tools—the munitions— they need to engage the enemy and help support U.S. forces that are fighting alongside them, and sometimes fighting in lieu of U.S. forces,” Dring said, adding that munition needs range from small-arms bullets to mortars and artillery to helicopter rockets.
The nonstandard munitions are obtained through indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts the Army has with Orbital ATK and Chemring Military Products, Dring said.
“They’re the U.S. prime contractors,” he said. “When we put in an order, they turn around and they go to their subcontractors to find their best value to meet our requirements. So we compete the delivery orders between the two primes.”
Non-Standard Ammunition responsibilities cover acquisition of everything from 9 mm ammunition up to 122 mm rockets. Dring highlighted one recent project example involving S-8 80 mm rockets for the Afghan National Army. Originally developed to support Soviet forces, S-8 rockets can be fired by fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft.
“They needed the rockets to support their close air support missions,” he said. “And we were able to quickly put a contract out, because there are new production S-8 missiles from Bulgaria. The Bulgarian company laid out a production schedule for us. We went over in November 2015 and saw the production; how they were going to do quality control and how they would produce all our missiles. They actually shot two missiles off the line for us to demonstrate their quality.”
Dring’s team returned to Bulgaria in January 2016 and conducted a “lot test” that included firing 72 S-8 rockets at hot, ambient and cold temperatures.
“We also conducted armor penetration testing; to make sure the rockets flew, hot, cold or ambient; to make sure they could penetrate the armor; and to make sure they would meet the user needs,” he said. The missiles were shipped out two weeks after that successful testing.
Dring was also quick to highlight significant synergies be- tween his product office and other service organizations co- located with his office at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J. One example can be found in the D-30 122 mm howitzer program that has provided towed field artillery systems to the Afghan National Army.
According to Greg Bader, an Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center employee supporting Project Manager for Towed Artillery Systems within PEO Ammunition, the program began in the 2010 time frame and involved the refurbishment and fielding of 204 D-30 weapon systems to Afghanistan. The refurbishment took place in Eastern Europe and modernized the howitzers by providing them with U.S. fire control systems, Bader said.
“This year, we contracted to provide spare parts for the D- 30s,” he said. “So we’re providing spare cannon assemblies, breach assemblies and additional conversion kits.”
“The D-30 is a real good story, because this PEO [Ammunition] offers a whole source solution, with Greg’s guys in Project Manager Towed Artillery Systems providing the cannon while we provide the ammo,” Dring said.
Another example of project synergies within PEO Ammunition can be found in mortars. Bob Ucci, chief of the weapons and fire control branch under the Office of the Product Manager, Guided Precision Munitions and Mortar Systems, Program Manager Combat Ammunition Systems, said the Army is re- equipping some allies with U.S. standard mortar systems—60 mm, 81 mm and 120 mm—with support from indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts with Elbit Systems of America and Connectec Co. Inc.
While Dring’s office supports only the mortar ammunition needs for allies utilizing non-standard mortar systems such as the 82 mm, co-location with Ucci’s team brought significant benefits.
“At times, we’ve had questions on mortars,” he said. “But we’ve got ‘the standard guys’ to come back to and answer our questions.
“And it’s the same way with Greg Bader and his team,” he said. “He works in the ‘triple seven’ [M777 155 mm towed howitzer] office. So when we have artillery questions about something like [meteorology] data or firing tables, we’ve got the experts right down the road.
“There’s just a lot of synergy by having all of this non-standard ammunition activity co-located with the standard project managers,” he said.
Dring also said that his team works “hand in hand” with the Project Manager for Soldier Weapons, which falls under the Program Executive Office Soldier.
“Those are the guys that buy the AK-47s,” he said, adding that they also buy rocket-propelled grenades and the SPG-9 73 mm recoilless gun launchers. Then those in the Product Director Non-Standard Ammunition office buy rounds for both as well as armor-piercing ammunition and tracers.
Quantifying those non-standard ammunition efforts, he pointed to a recent annual delivery of approximately 70 million AK-47 and PKM rounds, which represents just a portion of the $1.3 billion worth of foreign military sales achieved since the office was established.
The office has also derived an impressive amount of contracting lessons learned over this period. As an example, he cited significant help and support from the U.S. Army Contracting Command, combined with the indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts, in shortening the time from order receipt to contract award to 45 days.
“That’s more or less normal,” he said. “In a pinch, we can get it down to 19 days.”
One of the challenges involves the use of overseas contingency operations funding and the inability to pool requirements or plan out buys far in advance. Another challenge comes from the changing nature of the international defense industry.
“We receive a lot of our munitions from Eastern Europe,” he said. “But the Eastern Europeans are now joining NATO and switching over to NATO standards. Now, instead of just producing Warsaw Pact-style munitions, they’re also branching out into NATO production, which cuts into their ability to support us.”
He also pointed to close cooperation between his office and the State Department to ensure the use of approved production sources.
Dring said the activities performed by his office help U.S. warfighters “by helping other countries defend themselves. We’re supplying the Iraqi army, the Afghan army and the Afghanistan police force with the tools that they need to defend themselves.
“Those forces are fighting alongside U.S. forces. They are not only a force multiplier but in some cases, their new capabilities may be reducing the need to send people over there.”
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