Multi-Role Armament and Ammunition System (MRAAS)
In 1999 the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology approved an Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD) to be run by the Tank-Automotive and Armament Command-Army Research, Development and Engineering Center (TACOM-ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey. The ATD is designated the Multi-Role Armament and Ammunition System (MRAAS), and included developing an integrated direct and indirect firing capability on a common chassis.
The FCS Multi-Role Armament provides a single armament module configuration supporting both maneuver and fire support missions. The corresponding FCS Multi-Role Ammunition, a three-cartridge suite, provides overwhelming lethality at ranges up to 50 kilometers with greater precision and accuracy and reduced logistics footprint for the Future Force. Because this munitions suite is based on common cartridge geometry, the warfighter is able to adapt faster than the enemy to rapidly changing battlefield conditions.
The Future Combat System (FCS) Multi Role Armament and Ammunition System (MRAAS) provides direct fire, indirect fire and air defense capabilities that can defeat the full spectrum threat from 0-50km from a common armament module design that can be integrated into a Future Combat System (FCS) vehicle transportable on a C-130 aircraft. Current Army gun propulsion development is primarily focused on this system.
The MRAAS ammunition suite consists of three rounds:
- Advanced Kinetic Energy (KE) Munition for heavy armor (Line of Sight) LOS defeat from 0-40km,
- Multi-Purpose Extended Range Munition (MP-ERM) for precision strike of high value LOS and (Beyond Line of Sight) BLOS targets from 2-15km
- Smart Cargo Munition for BLOS and (Non-Line of Sight) NLOS engagements against area targets 4-50km.
Overmatching Indirect Fire Lethality (OIFL) may well represent the most important consideration with respect to FCV survivability. The superior capabilities of US indirect-fire precision munitions can be exploited on a variety of platforms. They must be considered for the FCS. It seems noteworthy that the ability of US tank forces to out-range opposing forces during Desert Storm is considered to be a more important factor contributing to operations success than the higher level of survivability provided by its superior armor. By 2025, increased engagement ranges for direct fire weapons will make OIFL capabilities even more decisive.
Future Combat System (FCS) Non-Line-of-Sight (NLOS) Cannon units will likely use Excalibur units to provide close support to maneuver units in urban or complex terrain. Excalibur is a family of precision-guided, extended-range modular projectiles incorporating three unique payload capabilities divided into Block configurations. Block I consists of high-explosive, fragmenting, or penetrating unitary munitions to enhance traditional fire support operations with increased range, improved accuracy, and reduced collateral damage against personnel, light materiel, and structure targets. Block II consists of smart munitions to search, detect, acquire, and engage fleeting and short-dwell targets common to open-terrain battlefields. Block III consists of discriminating munitions to selectively identify and engage individual vehicular targets in urban environments by distinguishing specific target characteristics. The FCS NLOS Cannon will incorporate an inductive fuze setter to transfer target and fuze data to the integral fuze.
The U.S. Army TACOM-ARDEC investigated the use of energetic thermoplastic elastomer (ETPE) based gun propellants in support of the Future Combat System (FCS) Multi-Role Armament and Ammunition Advanced Technology Demonstration. ETPE propellants with relatively high solids loading contents have proven to provide increased ballistic performance over currently fielded gun propellants. Use of the Other Transaction resulted in a unique teaming arrangement between Government and Industry.
Thiokol procured or manufactured all the materials needed to fabricate the propellant formulations selected under Task 3 into 20 lb of propellant in the form of layered sheets. The RDX/ETPE propellant shall make up the outer layers, and the CL20/ETPE propellant shall make up the inner layer. By weight, approximately 25% of the propellant was the RDX/ETPE and 75% of the propellant was the CL20/ETPE. It is desirable that the propellant be manufactured into a sheet configuration with a width of 140mm, but the final dimensions will be selected by the Government based upon the contractor's manufacturing capabilities.
Thiokol delivered the unlayered propellant and the 20 lbs of layered propellant to the Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD. The use of new energetic materials, including ETPEs, is key to producing increased performance propellant formulations that will meet requirements of the FCS fast-core geometry propellant program. Thiokol Propulsion had been working closely and successfully with the DoD during the past several years in developing both new energetic materials and increased performance propellant formulations. During this period, Thiokol has invested significant amounts of capital in the establishment of two pilot-scale facilities for manufacturing new energetic materials. The use of an other transaction agreement created the opportunity to acquire more affordable technology leading to improved performance in the next generation weapon systems.
Aerojet has been continuously developing ETPEs since 1978. They currently have identified at least two candidate gun propellants, a fast burn and a slow burn, for testing by ARDEC. They have delivered 14 pounds of two candidate propellants to support gun firings for the FCS program. It is anticipated that the testing performed by ARDEC will indicate the burn rate differential of fast to slow will be 3:1 or very close to that. To aid ARDEC in meeting its next goal for Future Combat System gun testing, Aerojet proposes to deliver 137 pounds of gun propellant crumb for processing at ARDEC. It is anticipated that the propellant crumb will be converted to the fast-core concept by ARDEC for the next series of gun firings. As a result of previous work under Army and Navy funding, Aerojet has developed a true Energetic Thermoplastic Elastomer based gun propellant that has been tailored to meet program performance goals of impetus, flame temperature and burn rate with mechanical properties to meet gun firing conditions. A gun propellant composed of an ETPE, filled with nitramines, can produce impetus over 15% higher than conventional gun propellants, while simultaneously producing significantly lower flame temperatures. This new process eliminates the use of hazardous solvents.
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