Supporting the Next Generation of Explosives Engineers

During the Defence Academy phase of the ATO Course the students are required to undertake an ammunition design project for which they are organised into syndicates and tasked with the design and feasibility study of some aspect pertaining to munitions or explosives. The project topics are provided by MOD/Industry/Academia/Other Government Departments. Each syndicate has at least 1 specially selected academic supervisor, a military advisor and the impressive resources available at the Defence Academy. The project concludes with a written report and a formal presentation to an invited audience. The aim of the project is to draw together the academic disciplines taught on the course, to give experience of solving a real technical problem from their chosen field both as individuals and as a team and to give experience of project management, resource management, technical report writing and formal presentation and ultimately to answer the technical question asked of them.

This year’s projects were:

  1. Enhance the performance of in-service Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) disruptors using alternative payloads. The aim of the alternative payloads is to enhance the following properties: thermal output, penetration and overpressure.
  2. Develop a render-safe procedure (RSP) for cased telescoped 40mm ammunition containing heavy metal alloys. The CT40 armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding sabot tracer (APFSDS-T) round has a heavy metal penetrator which has potentially hazardous health effects if small fragments are inhaled or ingested. The aim of the project was to develop an RSP for misfired CT40 APFSDS-T rounds without causing fragmentation of the heavy metal penetrator.
  3. Determine the effect on armour penetration of burying Explosively Formed Projectiles (EFP) in different mediums. Weapon manufacturers have developed EFP devices which they claim have the ability to penetrate armour despite significant burial depths and concealments. There is evidence to suggest terrorist organisations have concealed improvised EFP devices through burial for use against armoured targets. The aim of the project was to assess the penetrative performance of EFPs when buried to varying depths in different mediums commonly found across the globe. This was the syndicate which won the IExpE Prize for 2019’s best project.

These ATO project results are extremely well received and in recent years have provided solutions and advancements in understanding to DE&S, DSTL, Metropolitan Police, Royal Engineers, Cranfield University and Industry partners. These projects are only possible due to sponsors providing the areas for research and a degree of support – they begin in September each year and conclude the following April.

The benefits to a sponsor of having the ATO students research a capability or knowledge gap is their fresh approach using personal experience, previous studies and the first principles they are taught on the ATO course, as opposed to personnel who have spent years in the field and think they know the answers! These projects are soon being opened up to students on the EOE MSc and recent project results have been presented at national and international symposia and published in national and international journals.

If you believe you have an area relating to ordnance, munition or explosives which requires research then please contact Lt Col Liz Nelson (liz.nelson@da.mod.uk) on 01793 785558.

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