Military


SMAW Novel Explosive (SMAW-NE)

The Marines were so impressed with the success of thermobaric weapons used in Operation Enduring Freedom that they approached Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head and requested a shoulder-mounted version of their own. The Indian Head Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center (IHDIV, NSWC) (teaming with the Marine Corps Systems Command, NSWC Dahlgren, and Talley Defense Systems) responded to an urgent US Marine Corps need for a shoulder-launched enhanced-blast warhead, by delivering the Shoulder-Launched Multi Purpose Assault Weapon--Novel Explosive (SMAW-NE) in 2003. The highly successful collaboration spanned only nine months from concept development to weapon system fielding. This team used their expertise in warhead design, fuze design, test, manufacturing, systems safety, and systems integration in providing a solution to this technical challenge. Among many other enhancements, this modernized weapon includes a new warhead case design capable of penetrating brick targets and a thermobaric explosive fill that provides an enhanced lethality.

On 16 April 2002 contract number N00178-02-C-1049, in the amount of $387,096.00, was awarded to Talley Defense Systems by NAVSURFWARCEN Dahlgren Division for the SMAW Thermobaric Warhead. Indian Head, MD-based Naval Surface Warfare Center fabricated a thermobaric warhead that can operate with the shoulder-mounted multipurpose assault weapon.

In May 2002 NSWC/ IHD sought a commercial partner for a joint program to develop thermobaric (TB) warheads for shoulder launched weapons. The commercial partners was responsible for exploring and characterizing TB warhead designs with the goal of increasing lethality and/or incapacitation effects beyond those of fragmentation driven technologies. The commercial partner was responsible for integrating the warhead design into existing weapon system, demonstration with supporting hardware, and data acquisition and analysis of warhead effects. Demonstration of effects will include determination of event duration, affected zone, hear flux, overpressure, and acoustics. NSWC/IHD was responsible for TB explosive formulation, characterization, and loading into test hardware. Preference in selecting the commercial partner was given to companies having existing contracts for sh oulder launched weapons in order to leverage hardware costs and to companies having experience in incorporation TB materials into warhead designs.

The $799,788.19 contract [N0017403C0002] was awarded to Talley Defense Systems on 19 November 2002. By mid-2002 the project had concluded phase one, which included integrating the PBXIH-135 explosive into a shoulder-mounted warhead, redesigning the fuse interfaces, as well as booster and warhead case design. Phase two involved completing safety certification and initial weapons production.

Shoulder-launched Multi-purpose Assault Weapon-Novel Explosive (SMAW-NE) Thermobaric warhead is a CETO initiative, 400 copies shipped to Kuwait (received as of March 2003). As of 2005 the Corps had approximately 1000 thermobaric rounds left in the inventory. Procurement of these rockets was a one time buy. The IOAG position for POM2006 was to maintain remaining rounds on the shelf for future contingencies and not buy any more.

The Army has several types of disposable and reusable shoulder-fired weapon systems in inventory to defeat a variety of threat targets. The next generation of these types of weapon systems is based on leveraging emerging technologies; including advanced warheads, propulsion and fuzing systems, that will meet the soldiers requirements in the Interim and Objective Forces in the decades to come.

The High Impulse Thermobaric [HIT] technology achieves higher pressure, temperature and duration levels than the regular SMAW warhead. The explosive fill material is normally a slurry of reactive metal and liquid fuels, optimized for enclosed spaces. To eveluate potential application to Special Forces weapons, a SMAW-D with a HIT Warhead was testing at RTTC in July 2001. These tests determined the feasibility of loading HIT in a SMAW-D warhead. They were used to determine HIT blast effects on triple brick and concrete walls. The tests established the feasibility of thermobaric warheads for MOUT environments for Special Forces systems. The SMAW-D with HIT blast warhead replaces conventional Aluminized explosive with a High Impulse Thermobaric explosive.

In late 2002 JAO commented for Navy JAG (Code 10) on a legal review of the Hellfire PBXN-112/MAC warhead missile. The missile provides increased effectiveness against targets typically encountered in Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) by creating increased blast over-pressure and impulse to defeat multi-room structures. The missile is also effective against caves, light armor, trucks, radar vans, buildings, light bunkers, command and control sites, patrol boats, light ships, the superstructure of heavy ships, deck mounted weapons systems and troop concentrations. Based on JAO comments, Navy JAG revised the review to include discussion of the BLU-118 and the thermobaric SMAW, two weapons systems already in the inventory which also rely on over-pressure as the killing mechanism.

In support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) fielded equipment in response to Urgent Universal Need Statements which provided additional capability to I MEF. At the request of the Combat Assessment Team, MCSC provided three officers to assess UNS / legacy system items. This late April 2003 effort was the second trip supported by MCSC personnel in theatre. Reviewing the SMAW Thermobaric Round, the team reported that it "Only received reports of two shots. One unit disintegrated a large one-story masonry type building with one round from 100 meters. They were extremely impressed. However, another unit tried to breach a wall of a similar masonry building after being unsuccessful at trying to mechanically breach a door. "The round just bounced off the wall." They were not so impressed."

In July 2005, an article in the Marine Corps Gazette concluded that it had been highly effective in the November 2004 battle for Fallujah. , edition: "Marines could employ blast weapons prior to entering houses that had become pillboxes, not homes. The economic cost of house replacement is not comparable to American lives... all battalions adopted blast techniques appropriate to entering a bunker, assuming you did not know if the bunker was manned. ... SMAW gunners became expert at determining which wall to shoot to cause the roof to collapse and crush the insurgents fortified inside interior rooms. ... Due to the lack of penetrating power of the NE round, we found that our assaultmen had to first fire a dual-purpose rocket in order to create a hole in the wall or building. This blast was immediately followed by an NE round that would incinerate the target or literally level the structure."

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