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Engineering the nonlethal artillery projectil.

This article is taken from one by the same title published in the March-April 2003 issue of Field Artillery.

As Field Artillery evolves to meet the challenges of future wars against terrorism, the tactical concept of nonlethal (NL) fires will undoubtedly gain increasing emphasis. By generating NL protective and suppressive fires as well as special-purpose fires (incapacitants, countermobility and thermobaric effects), the FA will be poised to participate in all aspects of the future spectrum of conflict.

For the first time, the potential exists for both general support (GS) and direct support (DS) artillery units to engage in noncombat scenarios, providing large standoff, NL indirect fires in support of maneuver forces. NL payloads are being contemplated to control crowds, disable vehicle mobility, provide networked detection and sensing, as well as disrupt radar and communications and electrical power. To achieve these goals, we must rethink the entire munitions delivery concept, emphasizing nondestructive payload delivery mechanisms.

Department of Defense Directive 3000.3, Policy for Nonlethal Weapons, defines them as those that "are explicitly designed and primarily employed so as to incapacitate personnel or material, while minimizing fatalities, permanent injury to personnel, and undesired damage to property and the environment" [emphasis added].

These seemingly disparate requirements pose unique engineering challenges for the munitions community that, up until now, has concentrated on maximizing destructive terminal effects. The goal now becomes to create an NL carrier or payload delivery mechanism to minimize, as opposed to maximize, collateral damage within a defined target area. The unique challenges associated with achieving this goal form the basis of this article.

Within the NL community, it is generally accepted that any impact exceeding 58 foot-pounds of kinetic energy will result in a potential fatality. To put this metric into real-world perspective, 58 foot-pounds equates to roughly one-half the impact one would feel being hit by a baseball thrown by a professional pitcher.

How can this metric realistically be evaluated in an indirect-fire scenario? One simple and comparatively inexpensive approach is to employ a mortar as a "first cut" tool to evaluate potential NL collateral damage terminal effects.

In September 2000, engineers at the Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command-Armaments Research, Development and Engineering Center (TACOM-ARDEC), Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, initiated a program to develop an NL 81-millimeter mortar munition or "cartridge" using nontraditional materials. The purpose was to develop a cartridge that impacts with NL kinetic energy as described. (See Figure 1 for the cartridge design goals and the technical challenges associated with them.)
Figure 1: Design goals and technical challenges
associated with developing an NL mortar cartridge

Design Goals

* Minimize mechanical and deployment complexity.

* Minimize negative impact to payload volume.

* Require no special handling, storage, or training.

* Be scalable to artillery projectile and missile

Technical Challenges

* Survive typical muzzle-launch environments.

* Have appropriate fuzing for optimum payload
dispersal and effect.

* Require accurate meteorological data at the target

--To compute payload dispersal and effect.

--To ensure kinetic-energy criteria is met.

Many conceptual approaches to reduce the kineticenergy impact of the mortar cartridge are being investigated. Because kinetic energy is mass- and velocity-dependent, minimizing these constituents, either independently or together, will produce the best technical approach for continued development. This process is shown in Figure 2.


Current considerations include the introduction of "nontraditional" cartridge materials, such as frangible and organic composites, as well as a completely combustible cartridge case that burns up after dispensing an NL payload over the target area. ("Frangible" means the shell casing will break into small, lightweight pieces before or upon impact.)

More radical approaches to reducing kinetic energy impact include deployable rotors to induce a "winged maple seed" effect (Figure 3) and the more traditional parachute (Figure 4) to reduce impact velocity. Both of these concepts have advantages and disadvantages and both will be screened against "exit criteria" to rank their relative effectiveness. (Figure 5.)


While the mortar presents a cost-effective method to evaluate methodolgies for delivering NL indirect-fire payloads, the technology associated with kinetic energy mitigation is directly applicable to NL payloads for cannons or missiles. One possible approach to a cannon-launched NL artillery shell is shown in Figure 6, page 60.


Using a conventional 155-millimeter improved conventional munition (ICM) round as a carrier, no additional or specialized crew training would be required to load and fire it. Once the round was over a target area, it could eject two cartridges containing various NL payloads. Conceptually, the cartridges could contain malodorant pellets for crowd control and/or thermobaric or high-power microwave payloads for more specialized mission scenarios.

NL indirect-fire munitions present a unique opportunity for the FA to move into more nontraditional fire missions. The engineering associated with creating and employing these munitions in an indirect-fire role is still in its infancy; however, we understand and are working the technical challenges. We are building and testing prototypes.

What remains is to create and maintain a dialog within the FA community as to the potential and relevance for NL indirect "fires" in the future spectrum of conflict.
Figure 5: Exit criteria for the Nonlethal Mortar Cartridge
Development Program

 Criterion Threshold

1. Survive muzzle launch Successful launch from 200
 environment to 2,500 meters

2. Projectile accuracy Delivery accuracy to 1 probable
 using lightweight error <15 meters to 1,500 meters
 NL casing

3. Fusing concept for optimum Successful NL delivery and dispense
 payload dispersal and effect of generic payloads over the area

4. Maximum terminal kinetic 58 foot-pounds

5. Scalable technology

 Criterion Objective

1. Survive muzzle launch 150 to 4,000 meters

2. Projectile accuracy <1 percent of impact
 using lightweight range beyond 1,500
 NL casing meters

3. Fusing concept for optimum
 payload dispersal and effect

4. Maximum terminal kinetic

5. Scalable technology 25 foot-pounds

Thanks to the following for their input: Matthew P. Evangelisti, Project Engineer, and Robert D. Worth, Consultant, on the TACOM-ARDEC 81-millimeter Nonlethal Mortar Program, Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, and Susan I. Walker, Science and Technology Advisor in the Depth and Simultaneous Attack Battle lab, Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Mr. Floroff is a senior artillery engineer employed at TACOM-ARDEC at Picatinny Arsenal. During his 24-year federal career, he has been involved exclusively in research and development activities associated with future artillery development. He has been responsible for many artillery weapon prototypes demonstrating robotic ammunition handling, novel recoil attenuation techniques, towed artillery digitization, lightweight howitzer design and, most recently, NL indirect-fire initiatives. He has published many technical reports on artillery-related research and development topics and has spoken at national and international weapons and munitions symposia. He holds a bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
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Author:Floroff, Stephen G.
Publication:Military Police
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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