Picatinny engineers deliver safer, more lethal gun mounts to helicopter crews
June 7, 2011
By Mr Timothy Rider (RDECOM)
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. -- Three Picatinny engineers recently received U.S. flags flown by 10th Mountain Division helicopter crews over Afghanistan for designing better gun mounts for door and window guns in CH-47 “Chinook” helicopters.
Receiving the tribute were David Javorsky, chief of the Weapons Technical Support Branch; Adam M. Jacob, Project Officer for In-Station Gun Mounts; and Michael Colonnello, mechanical engineer.
The men, who work for the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), also received certificates of appreciation.
Javorsky has applied for a patent for his M24E1 machine gun mount design that holds the new M240H machine gun.
It features a swinging arm to allow easier passage through the aircraft’s openings, holds 400 rounds of ammunition and collects spent links and cases.
Javorsky’s design replaces the M24 armament subsystem that has been used since the 1960s to hold the M60 machine gun.
The Army began replacing the M60 in 2005. In 2007, the Army documented a requirement for improvements, including a mounting arm that could be easily moved from the deployed to stowed position.
Because the M24 mount was fixed in the aircraft’s passageways, Soldiers needed to climb over or slide under the arm to pass into and out of the helicopter.
In addition to slowing troop movements, Javorsky noted, the arm’s position was a safety concern if troops need to quickly pass through the openings during emergencies. Additionally, the M24 held only 200 rounds. Troops wanted greater capacity, as well as something to catch the spent links and rounds.
In March of 2007, when the Army’s project managers for Crew-Served Weapons and Cargo Helicopters agreed to a proposal by ARDEC to design the new mount, Javorsky had already been mulling over ideas for the new arm.
The form and fit process started at Picatinny and was based on crude measurements and photographs, Javorsky recalls.
Javorsky, Jacob and Colonnello needed to travel to the nearest Chinooks for the form fitting, eventually taking so many two-hour trips to Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., and five-hour trips to Fort Drum, N.Y., they lost count of their outings.
They typically departed Picatinny carrying either metal or plastic mockups of the preliminary design to test fit them into Chinooks.
They met Army testers and flew on training missions with Soldiers to get their feedback on ways to improve mount’s initial design.
“They were great and continue to be great,” Jacob remembers of how they were received by the people at the installations "despite the frequent visits.
Once they met with Soldiers, the visiting Picatinny trio found them very willing to analyze the design and offer suggestions. “Soldiers would get right up into it,” said Colonnello.
“The mount was something the Soldiers had been waiting for for a while,” explained Jacob. From an engineering standpoint, the challenge was the very limited space in which to make the design work.
Competing for whatever space was available near the aircraft’s door and window openings were objects like a crew chief’s seat, a folding step ladder and new things “that always seems to be going in there.”
“We did a lot of tweaking with the design to make sure the pintile was in the right place,” said Javorsky, referring to the arm’s pivot point.
In August 2008, Javorsky completed his technical design and contracted with a firm to produce four prototypes, beginning the next phase of engineering and flight testing.
Modifications to resolve several design issues were incorporated and, upon successful completion of flight tests, a decision was made to build mounts for a long-term user evaluation.
As the evaluation hardware was delivered, Jacob and Colonnello would conduct new equipment training with the Soldiers, first on the ground, then by participating in aerial gunnery training.
Interacting with the Soldiers was a “99.9 percent positive experience,” said Jacob. Nevertheless, he found that old habits die hard.
Although the new gun mount swung open, “the most experienced Soldiers had become so accustomed to swinging under the legacy gun mount they kept doing it anyway.”
On May 11, the team was involved in the packaging and delivery of the 120th new M24E1.
This met the number required for the operational evaluation and providing the system to all units in the theater of operations.
“It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences in my career,” said Javorsky.
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