New 40 mm grenades will result in more realistic, safer training
The Program Executive Office Ammunition reached another milestone in the development of new 40 mm training grenades that will allow Soldiers and units to train more realistically and safely.
The Milestone C and Type Classification-Limited Procurement were achieved on May 31st, 2017, authorizing the program to enter into Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP). The milestone marks the culmination of the 21-month Engineering & Manufacturing Development (EMD) Phase, in which two contractors competed with their own respective designs, in both the M781E1 LV 40mm program and the M918E1 HV 40mm program.
The Target Practice–Day/Night/Thermal (TP-DNT) rounds were developed for both the Low Velocity (LV) 40mm family and the High Velocity (HV) 40mm family, explained Christopher Seacord, Product Director - Medium Caliber Ammunition. Seacord works in the Program Manager Maneuver Ammunition Systems, which is part of the Program Executive Office Ammunition.
LV 40mm rounds are single-shot grenades fired from the M203 and M320 Grenade Launchers. HV 40mm rounds have a higher rate of fire and are fired from the Mk19 Grenade Machine Gun (GMG), mounted on vehicles like Humvees.
As a result of achieving Milestone C, the government awarded low rate initial production contract options on 31 July 2017, to the winning contractors. The M781E1 LV 40mm program was awarded to General Dynamics - Ordnance & Tactical Systems (GD-OTS) and the M918E1 HV 40mm program was awarded to American Ordnance, LLC. This strategy for EMD allowed the government to realize cost savings for the mature designs in a competitive environment and maximize the buying power for providing improved training to the soldier.
The milestone was reached in conjunction with the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center and Army Contracting Command – New Jersey.
40 MM HIGH VELOCITY M918E1 TP-DNT
“The new training rounds will allow Soldiers to get a better training capability than they have right now,” said Seacord. “It’s not that the existing training rounds don’t do what they need to do -they meet training requirements. However, the Soldiers want to conduct fire and maneuvers during training, as opposed to training in a static position.”
Fire and Maneuver training consists of one group of Soldiers creating suppressive fire with 40mm training grenades while a second group of Soldiers advances towards the enemy position.
“The current training round presents a safety risk because it contains a fuze and energetics. If it doesn’t initiate downrange, and then an advancing Soldier steps on it, he could be injured,” Seacord said.
“Typically Soldiers can’t conduct fire and maneuver training due to the safety risks. What we would like to do is remove the energetic from the cartridge so that even if it did not function down range, and someone stepped on it or picked it up, it would not hurt them.”
Rather than use a fuze, the grenades are filled with a capsule of a more stable material that replaces the current energetic. In the context of defense research, "energetics" is a short-hand term for materials such as explosives, propellants and pyrotechnics.
This could allow the overall complexity of the HV 40 mm practice grenade to be reduced from 39 parts to as few as 10.
The Army estimates that a less complex round can save more than $4 per round, or more than $8 million in total.
“There’s a huge cost savings associated with this program. We can give them a safer round and also make it cheaper-it’s a win-win situation,” Seacord said.
The new high velocity training rounds will maintain the capability of the former rounds, including the ability to see effects at night, and through the use of night vision goggles and thermal sights.
40 MM LOW VELOCITY M781E1 TP-DNT
TP-DNT rounds are also being developed for the LV family in order to allow Soldiers to train both day and night.
“The low velocity training round has orange powder that simulates the flash/bang. Unfortunately, it cannot be seen at night, so actual tactical rounds have to be used for LV 40mm grenade night training,” Seacord said.
Much like the HV TP-DNT design, the new round will meet the user’s requirement for training effectiveness during day, at night, and through the use of night vision goggles and thermal sights.
The tactical rounds cost $50 or $60, compared to the current day training rounds, which will cost around $7.
Although the cost of using the new training grenades will increase slightly, Seacord said, instead of having to use tactical rounds to train at night, Soldiers can use the new round for both day and night.
“You get a cost savings by not having to use the tactical rounds at night, which are more expensive,” he said. “And Soldiers get a huge training benefit that they don’t currently have.”
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