ARDEC Developing New Method To Give Added Power, Range To Artillery

If, in the words of Napoleon, “God fights on the side with the best artillery,” Picatinny Arsenal engineers are improving artillery to the point that there should be no doubt as to which side should be favored.

The research team seeks to extend the range, power and versatility of artillery by using an “electrically-responsive” method to control energetic materials such as artillery propellants.

“Electrically-responsive” means that the materials are controlled by electricity. “Energetic materials” are items such as explosives, propellants and pyrotechnics.

“If you can control the burn rate and energy output of a propellant with electric voltage, this opens a whole new capability,” explained David Thompson, a chemical engineer and member of the research team.

“Right now, we’re considering it (electrically-responsive energetics) for rocket propellants found in extended range artillery rounds.”

Thompson and his fellow researchers work at the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal. ARDEC is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

The Army uses artillery rounds that have two different types of motors for their extended range propellants.

“One is called the base bleed motor, which gets some extended range over a normal round and burns right out of gun,” said Thompson. “The other is a rocket assist motor, which doesn’t burn until it gets the top of its flight, before it boosts and increases the velocity of the projectile.

“With electric voltage, you could use one motor that does both,” Thompson added. “You could create a low-voltage, right out of the gun, and get that base-bleed effect, and then hit it with a high voltage and get the rocket-assist effect, ultimately increasing the range over that which either motor can provide on its own.”

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