Scientists from the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center met with the U.K. Ministry of Defence Feb. 6–7 to initiate a five-year agreement — the official documents were signed by the two member nations this same week.

US, UK arrangement allows joint research

A Science and Technology Project Arrangement has been established between the United States and the United Kingdom concerning joint energetic materials work.

Scientists from the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center met with the U.K. Ministry of Defence Feb. 6–7 to initiate a five-year agreement. Members from the U.K. Defence Ordnance Safety Group and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory attended, along with Department of Defense partners from the Army, including the U.S. Army Research Lab, the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, as well as the Navy at Indian Head, Md. and Crane, Ind.

The arrangement allows exploration and examination of nitrocellulose, the most widely used energetic material in the world. AMRDEC’s Weapons Development and Integration Directorate currently has a bi-lateral agreement with the U.K., meeting every six months to discuss exchange of existing science and technology data. However, this new PA is a turning point for the development of nitrocellulose because it allows both countries to jointly address basic challenges with the material that are still not well understood.

“A Project Arrangement allows you to do joint work,” explained WDI’s Chief Scientist of Energetics, Dr. Jamie Neidert. “An information exchange annex only allows you to exchange existing data. The PA allows us to come up with joint experiments, at different locations and compare results. This will help address common problems we are both having.”

During the meeting, a project plan was generated to determine specific scopes of work to keep the effort focused and on schedule. The two entities will also contribute equally to funding the project.

“This topic was of interest to both countries,” Neidert said. “There is a need to understand our energetic materials better. If we understand them, then we can control the specifications for them, improve reliability and reduce errors in production. The goal of this joint work is to help U.S. and U.K. program managers determine risk and control variability and reliability in NC-based formulations as the cellulose sources for the NC change.”

Nitrocellulose is an energetic material found in more than 70 percent of weapons used by U.S. Soldiers. Often used in rocket motors, bullets and explosives, it helps rocket propellants and ammunition burn quickly. Nitrocellulose is the largest single ingredient in the rocket motor for the 2.75-inch Hydra system. It is an extremely tough, durable material, but one of its biggest weaknesses is aging.

“It’s critical that we ensure our industrial base remains strong and resilient,” said AMRDEC’s Technical Project Officer, Dr. Greg Drake. “We want to keep our industrial base healthy and vital. This program is larger than AMRDEC, it has DOD level benefits all the way from modeling to manufacturing.”

Drake explained how this science and technology program better equips and supports the future of the force.

“As our weapons get more refined, we’re having to refine our ingredients. While the requirements for our weaponry are becoming more detailed and less forgiving, those requirements affect the formulations for our weapons.”

In 2022, the project will hold a joint rocket propellant demonstration. If there is further research to conduct and both parties have funding, the arrangement can be extended.

The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

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