Thursday, September 23, 2010

National Leader in Energetics

Indian Head Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center

A technician prepares a Tomahawk missile for functional ground testing at NSF Indian Head.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This profile is the sixth in a series of articles being featured in the South Potomac Pilot in commemoration of Naval Support Facility Indian Head’s 120th anniversary. Established in September 1890 as the Naval Proving Ground, Indian Head represents one of the oldest naval installations in the U.S. Today, NSF Indian Head is home to six military commands that represent operational, research, development, test and evaluation and response-force missions serving U.S. forces deployed around the world and helping to protect our homeland. This series celebrates the unique history and contribution by each command at Indian Head.

With 120 years of history and experience to its credit, the Indian Head Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center (IHD NSWC) today stands in the forefront of energetics research and development, as well as the application of energetics in propulsion systems and ordnance.

From its earliest mission to proof test the Fleet’s large-caliber guns, and then to serve as the production facility to develop improved types of gunpowder propellant, the command has evolved to embrace a much broader range of energetics activities.

Today, IHD NSWC’s mission is to provide research, development, test and evaluation and in-service support of energetics and energetic materials for warheads, propulsion systems, ordnance and pyrotechnic devices and fuzing for Navy, joint forces, and the nation, to include research, test and engineering of chemicals, propellants, explosives, related electronic devices, associated ordnance equipment and special weapons support. \As the largest DoD full spectrum energetics facility and leader in the Navy’s energetic enterprise, IHD NSWC employs a workforce of over 1,300, of which nearly 800 are scientists, engineers and technicians dedicated to every aspect of developing and sustaining explosives, propellants, pyrotechnics, high-energy chemicals and their application into warfighting systems.

In addition, the command has the largest concentration of PhDs – over 50 – working in energetics within the Naval Surface Warfare Center enterprise for Naval Sea Systems Command. This number includes the highest number of ‘‘rocket scientists” – that is, synthesis chemists, detonation physicists and formulation scientists – dedicated to energetics RDT&E.

The command is structured to address all aspects of the energetics technical discipline including basic research, applied technology, technology demonstration, prototyping, engineering development, acquisition, low-rate production, in-service engineering⁄mishaps and failure investigations, surveillance and demilitarization. If U.S. military forces experience problems with current weapon systems, or encounter new threats on the battlefield, IHD NSWC collaborates and provides the appropriate solution.


As the Navy’s lead technical authority for energetic, IHD NSWC performs over 60 percent of all Navy energetics workload, and has an unmatched record of 16 Navy-qualified explosives transitioned into 50 Navy, Army, Air Force and Marine Corps weapons. Since 1985, 70 percent of all explosives deployed in U.S. weapons were developed by the command.

IHD NSWC’s unique cradle-to-grave energetics capabilities support rapid-response solutions for our warfighters. Examples include the command’s CAD⁄PAD Joint Program Office, which provides unified life-cycle management of cartridge actuated and propellant actuated devices for the joint services. They employ ‘‘best practices” to improve resource management, contracting, facilities, training, and streamline science and technology.

IHD NSWC is the nation’s only design and development agent for underwater warheads and explosives, and is the free-world’s sole provider of OTTO Fuel II for both domestic and foreign torpedoes. The command’s explosive modeling experts have jointly developed high fidelity underwater hydrocodes (DYSMAS) with German researchers, providing the Navy a capability to accurately predict underwater explosive performance and affects for a wide variety of lethality and vulnerability applications.

The division is also pioneering nano-energetic material R&D efforts leading to a complete change in the future directions of energetic materials, components and systems, providing the capability to support the development of smaller yet higher performing, greater precision, combat safe insensitive, ‘‘dial-a-yield” weapons in the not too distant future. IHD executes this world-class energetic system engineering in unique facilities including unmatched chemical scale-up labs, the country’s only energetic-certified microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) development lab, next generation twin-screw extrusion processing systems and the largest set of detonation science ‘‘bomb-proofs” in the free world.

IHD NSWC’s full-spectrum expertise, facilities and system engineering know-how allows for energetics to be sustained as a national competency. This exceptional capability to synergize across the organization - from basic research and engineering, to test, evaluation and full-scale manufacturing - provides the Navy and nation a one-of-a-kind core capability unmatched anywhere in the U.S. addressing current and future warfighting needs.

The success and achievements of IHD are attributable to a combination of state-of-the-art facilities, sustained investment in science and technology by the DoD, and most importantly the employee population – an exceptional assembly of educated, talented and innovative people.

Impacting the Global War on Terror

IHD continues to impact the Global War on Terror (GWOT) through production of energetic products and through applying a detailed understanding of energetic design, manufacturing and system information.

In recent years, the command has responded to many energetic product needs by engineering and fabricating specialty items such as shoulder mounted assault weapons, anti-structural munition grenades, and land attack warfare systems. Working with the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) and the Intelligence communities, IHD experts perform analysis and investigations of suspect items found in theater, which allow for a better understanding of tactics and products used by enemy forces.

Making use of the command’s expertise in energetic materials, IHD has embarked on a program of assisting the Department of Homeland Security in their mission to protect against the threat of homemade explosives. Chemists, formulators, test engineers and modelers all contribute to the effort to characterize and detect homemade explosives. In addition, IHD serves as a ‘‘trusted agent” to DHS concerning the other government and industry players on their team.

Optimizing New Energetic Material for the Warfighter

Through the application of state-of-the-art technologies and process improvements, IHD scientists have continued to make significant progress in the evolution of new energetic material scale-up. Using scientific principles and real-time analytical tools to modernize the scale up process, IHD provides a capability which allows scientists to find and manufacture the right material for energetic formulations while providing outstanding and reliable products to the warfighter. The command’s expertise in scale-up includes optimizing energetic material for advanced gun propellants used in the MK 45, 5 inch, 62 caliber gun.

Furthermore, IHD scientists and engineers are investigating the energy release phenomena associated with reactive materials in work funded by the Office of Naval Research. Reactive materials consist of traditionally inert materials like aluminum and other metals, or polymers that under special conditions react explosively.

Critical to its development into weapons systems is the scientific understanding of the fundamental physics and chemistry underlying the energy release. Time resolved emission spectroscopy, schlieren photography and flash x-ray photography are among the techniques being applied to measure transient chemistry, shock propagation and debris formation and flow.