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Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)

Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) hazards on the battlefield have an enormous effect on command and control decisions for battle planning. During Operation Desert Storm, there were 21 Army personnel killed and 53 injured as a direct result of handling/mishandling of UXO. UXOs are hazards, whether they are on the battlefield or in designated training areas. Personnel can lessen the danger of UXO hazards by being able to recognize the hazard and strictly follow the basic safety guidelines.

By definition, explosive ordnance is any munitions, weapon delivery system, or ordnance item that contains explosives, propellants, and chemical agents. Unexploded ordnance consists of these same items after they have been: (1) armed or otherwise prepared for action, (2) launched, placed, fired, or released in a way that they cause hazards, and/or (3) remain unexploded either through malfunction or design. An individual's ability to recognize a UXO is the first and most important step in reducing risks associated with UXO hazards.

Munitions come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They are color-coded during the manufacturing process for easy identification purposes; however, color markings alone cannot be relied upon to identify UXOs. These markings can be altered or removed by exposure to the elements. Instead, physical features should be used to identify UXO outside its normal environment.

With the more recent proliferation of the area denial and area destruction ordnance used in modern warfare, the problem of unexploded ordnance has become so prevalent that international laws for employment are now widely discussed. The US military began actively seeking self-destruct solutions for its fuzing in 1987. Today's arsenals of cluster bombs and the Improved Conventional Munitions (ICM) warheads on artillery and rocket systems present a most vexing problem for military planners. ICM munitions systems were historically designed and manufactured to function with dud rates less than 5%. But each warhead carries anywhere from 10 to over a 1000 separate bomblets and most rounds are fired or dropped in salvo, multiplying the potential for remaining lethality on the battlefield. On unfavorable terrain (mud, snow, forest) the dud rate is greatly increased. After the Gulf War, battlefield unexploded dud cleanup was attempted costing over $100 million dollars and caused approximately 30 deaths and over 100 wounded personnel. The current policy of the Department of Defense is to only employ submunitions with a less than one percent dud rate. The self destruct designs are added to destroy the remaining duds. The technology of choice to defeat the problem has been an electronic fuze option which continues to be preferred, but, after years of effort and testing, the current programs are yet unable to meet either the producibility or cost criteria required.

Grenade (bomblet) fuzes for Army munitions must meet stringent reliability and safety requirements and should include a self-destruct feature. The fuze must comply with the requirements of MIL-STD-1316. Currently these safety requirements have been met through the use of a self-destruct mechanism. The fuzes are for use on M77, M42, M46, M80, and M85 grenades used in the Multiple Launch Rocket System and artillery spin stabilized and non-spin stabilized projectiles. The fuzes allow for a delay after dispersal from the rocket or projectile to permit operation of the primary function upon target engagement. When used in rockets the fuze's primary function mode must have a reliability of at least 96% and the combined primary and self destruct function reliability must result in a hazardous dud rate of less than 1%. When used in artillery the primary function mode must have a reliability of at least 97% and the combined primary and self-destruct function reliability must result in a hazardous dud rate of less than 1 dud in 500 or 0.2% Fuzing concepts may be pyrotechnic, mechanical, electrical, etc, or a combination thereof. The projected cost of the fuze must be less than $10.00 in high rate production (about two hundred thousand fuzes per month).

Explosives accidents occurr because items thought to be DUDs are picked up as souvenirs or toys at active and inactive training areas and ranges of military bases. These items may appear insignificant, harmless, or entertaining. They are not. DUDs are explosives devices that have been fired, but have not exploded. Unexploded ordnance (UXO) of all types can be found on impact ranges and training areas. DUDs may be in areas adjacent to ranges and training areas. Grenades, blasting caps, illumination signals, simulators, and a host of other ordnance may not have functioned as originally intended.

Picking up DUDs can cost a person a hand or a life. DUDs can explode at any time, especially if handled or moved. There are many active and inactive training sites and impact ranges that are accessible to the public. Today military bases are often open posts. Visitors can travel in many areas without restrictions or escorts. Facilities that have closed may have former training ranges that still need to be cleared of UXO. Access to these areas may be as easy as walking over an installation boundary. The training and impact sites may not be fenced and monitored on a continuous basis, but are usually well marked with signs. These signs warn of the dangers and forbid unauthorized entry. Often, these signs are ignored with devastating consequences.

One simple rule should be followed when a person finds a DUD. DO NOT TOUCH! If there is one DUD, realize that others may be in the area. Be careful when leaving the area. Contact the military police or fire department. Most military installations with an active training range have Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) units who dispose of unexploded munitions. EOD personnel are often dispatched to locations where DUDs are found to help in disposing of the dangerous items.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 12:36:57 ZULU