Dual Explosive Destruction Systems Being Tested at Edgewood Area APG
Two separate transportable systems for destroying chemical weapons are currently being tested at the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground, leveraging decades of experience held by the nation’s chemical weapons destruction experts at the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC).
As one of its core capabilities, ECBC operates explosive destruction systems for U.S. and international government customers to destroy munitions that may be configured with chemical agents. Most recently, ECBC has been working with the Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (PEO ACWA) to help destroy one of the nation’s last chemical weapon stockpiles in Pueblo, Colo. But, here in Edgewood, the testing they are doing on the two new systems – the P2A and the DAVINCHLITE – is about the future.
“It’s rare when we have two explosive destruction system operations taking place simultaneously here at Edgewood,” says Tom Rosso, business manager of the Chemical Biological Application and Risk Reduction (CBARR) business unit of ECBC, which conducts chemical demilitarization field operations and is overseeing testing of both explosive destruction systems. “We’re very fortunate our partnerships have afforded us these opportunities.”
Both the P2A and DAVINCHLITE are explosive destruction systems, meaning that they use explosive force to help destroy chemical agent. However, each system uses explosives in a different way.
In April, ECBC began developmental testing of the DAVINCHLITE, which stands for Detonation of Ammunition in a Vacuum Integrated Chamber, while LITE refers to a refinement to the original system. The developmental testing for a high-throughput explosive destruction technology is funded by the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity (CMA) and executed under a Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense contract with Kobe Steel of Japan, manufacturer of the DAVINCHLITE. Kobe Steel was awarded the contract and subsequently partnered with CBARR under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement.
DAVINCHLITE has been used overseas for nearly a decade and is currently being used in no fewer than seven destruction projects around the globe, including operations in China, Belgium and France. But, it has never been tested against the stringent U.S. safety and environmental standards. If the Japanese-built technology stands up to the more exacting standards, says Ray DiBerardo, CBARR project manager, “DAVINCHLITE could be another tool in the toolbox.”
“We brought this technology to CBARR because we are confident in their knowledge of U.S. standards for operating explosive destruction technology,” says Koichi Hayashi, deputy general manager of the technology and process engineering section of Kobe Steel. “We have experience all over the world where chemical agent is being destroyed, but the United States has very strict safety requirements.”
As its name implies, the DAVINCHLITE is a smaller version of another DAVINCH system built by Kobe Steel. The DAVINCHLITE has less than half the explosive handling capacity of the original DAVINCH model. The slimmed-down version meets the requirements of the U.S. Department of Defense Explosives Safety Board, which regulates explosive destruction technology for military uses, Hayashi says. The size reduction was one of many adaptations Kobe Steel made for U.S. approval.
DAVINCHLITE consists of a cylinder with an explosion containment chamber housed within one enclosure and an off-gas treatment system housed in a second enclosure. The system uses implosion energy, which destroys from outside to inside. Donor charges are placed outside the munition. The detonation of these donor explosives shatters the container or munition, and the shock and heat of the explosion destroys the chemical agent.
Unique to this model is an outrigger feature for unloading and installation.
“The whole chamber is put into place by itself, no crane needed,” says Masahiko Sugimoto, deputy general manager of the plant engineering and operation service section of Kobe Steel. The installation of the system at CBARR was the first time this feature has been used by the manufacturer.
DAVINCHLITE is designed to process 200 to 300 items per year, and can process conventional munitions as well as smoke-producing and chemical munitions.
Before the first phase of testing on the DAVINCHLITE was completed in June, the P2A explosive destruction system arrived in Edgewood in four containers on flatbed trucks from the manufacturer, Sandia Laboratories in Livermore, Calif. The P2A was delivered to the Prototype Detonation Test and Destruction Facility at Edgewood, where the DAVINCHLITE is also housed.
The P2A is a cooperative venture. It is a PEO-ACWA asset, with CMA’s Recovered Chemical Materiel Directorate overseeing testing conducted by ECBC. Ultimately, plans call for the system to be operated by ECBC personnel from the CBARR business unit.
The P2 line of explosive destruction systems is used to safely destroy chemical munitions that, for various reasons, cannot be processed at a chemical agent destruction facility. In some cases these munitions have been recovered for formerly used defense sites, while in other cases they may be part of a chemical weapons stockpile but are unsuitable for destruction in a fixed facility. The system uses an explosive charge to cut the munition in half, and then uses neutralizing chemicals to convert the chemical agent into less toxic compounds that can be disposed of as industrial waste.
The P2A is the next generation of the P2 explosive destruction system that includes several new modifications including updated clamping systems, an updated liquid sampling system, as well as a vapor and liquid monitoring system. “The improvements are designed to increase operational efficiency and operator safety,” says Dennis Bolt, CBARR project manager for the P2A. Testing will yield data to validate efficiency, he says.
The previous P2 EDS was mounted on a platform elevated 40 inches off of the ground. Operators had to use a staircase to access the EDS platform, and lifted the munitions into the chamber with a small crane. Comparatively, the new P2A is mounted on a skid 10 inches high, allowing easier access to the various system components, Bolt says.
“We will spend less time in preparation and more time in actual destruction operations,” Bolt concludes.
Over a 20-month period ending in February 2016, CBARR supported PEO ACWA by operating a P2 explosive destruction system at Pueblo, destroying 560 chemical munitions that were unsuitable for processing in the newly-constructed Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP). The plant is expected to process a total of 780,000 chemical munitions in a series of three campaigns, and munitions that can’t be safely processed using the plant’s automated equipment will be designated for destruction by an explosive destruction system. CBARR is expected to resume operations in support of PCAPP in 2017, and if testing goes well, the new P2A will be put into operation for that mission. I95