Flower Power! US DoD Calling For Environmentally Friendly Training

After the push for the M855A1, an environmentally friendly round, it comes as no surprise at the US Department of Defense is continuing the theme with one of their latest Request for Proposals from the SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) agency. In short, the DoD is looking for ways to reduce its impact on the environment through its training munitions, of which it uses millions every year.

On a few of the older bases, the impact area of the small arms ranges is covered with lead projectiles. With millions of soldiers filing many more millions of rounds, 55 grains of lead and copper has a tendency to build up over time, not to mention the other larger rounds from 40mm grenades, 60mm, 120mm mortars, 155mm artiliery, etc. As the DoD puts plainly:

The projectiles, and in some circumstances the cartridge cases and sabot petals, are either left on the ground surface or several feet underground at the proving ground or tactical range. Components of current training rounds require hundreds of years or more to biodegrade. Further, civilians (e.g., farmers or construction crews) encountering these rounds and components do not know if they are training or tactical rounds. Proving grounds and battle grounds have no clear way of finding and eliminating these training projectiles, cartridge cases and sabot petals, especially those that are buried several feet in the ground. Some of these rounds might have the potential corrode and pollute the soil and nearby water. The solution sought by this topic is naturally occurring biodegradable material to replace the current training round materials, eliminating environmental hazards.

Further, its mentioned that the Army would envision the ability to embed seeds into the projectiles and cases themselves which can then use the biodegrade able munition as the jumpstart to growth.

The SBIR will encompass three phases, each of which requires the full completion of the previous phase to proceed to the next.

PHASE I: In Phase I the contractor develop a process to produce biodegradable composites with remediation seeds that can be used to manufacture 40mm-120mm training rounds. These Training rounds shall meet all the performance requirements of existing training rounds. The contractor should also explore avenues to produce biodegradable composites with remediation seeds for use in products outside the defense sector.

PHASE II: In Phase II the contractor will prove out the fabrication process and manufacture prototypes that demonstrate the process is ready for industrial use. Provide a sufficient number of prototypes for the government to perform ballistic tests.

PHASE III: Contractor will coordinate with PEO Ammunition and ammunition prime contractors to establish a transition path for the SBIR technology.

Those interested in working with SBIR and the United States Army can apply for the SBIR initiative here. It closes February 8th. 

For those not interested, this is what I think of when seeing the solicitation:



Nathan S.

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

Nathan can be reached at Nathan.S@TheFirearmBlog.com

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


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  • Disarmed in CA

    There just aren’t enough spring flowers on the killing field these days

  • yodamiles

    In a few years, DoD will come out with a billion dollars contract for next gen environmental friendly herbicide to take care of thier gun range …..Wasteful spending…..

    • Bill

      Its called a mower. The nitrogen generated by gunpowder detonating is a natural fertilizer.

  • Rem870

    This leftist crap has gone too far. When engaging the enemy and taking fire from, the last thing that will make you feel good about yourself is that you are using green ammo.

    I cant wait until they develop rounds from recycled organic cardboard.

    • Malthrak

      If you’d read the article, you’d realize this was not intended for combat use, but training on high volume practice ranges to reduce cleanup requirements and costs.

      • lurpy

        Reading is way harder than whining about leftists though

      • Phillip Cooper

        If that’s true, why did they repeatedly use the term “battlefield”?

    • Standard Velocity

      Since when did being a conservationist and steward of the planet become “leftist?” If lead-free alternatives were as good as lead and affordable we would all win. Military training use is a concentrated area where alternative materials can actually have an impact and create the volume to bring prices down for the rest of us.

      If these ill-conceived rants are what passes for conservatism it is no wonder all the good Teddy Rosevelt did is being dismantled.

      • Bill

        Well said. Let’s not forget the Teddy was a warrior, also.

  • Rem870

    United States is evolving into the worlds laughingstock. Constrained rules that wont let our service members (i was once one) effectively fight.

    One day we will charge the battle field unleashing cellulose nerf darts with the ballistics of a wiffle ball.

    • Jambo

      This is training ammo. It’s probably a wise idea to keep the workplace as lead-free as possible when possible. Why not take care of our own facilities? Plus, this might mean less police call at the end of a range session.

    • Malthrak

      Nobody is talking about using this stuff on a battlefield, this is all for training areas so the ground isnt contaminated for decades or centuries afterward.

      • tsubaka

        but theses ranges are already contaminated!,so there will be a contract ON EVERY base on U.S soil or foreign soil (Djibouti for example) to clean the lead underground.
        And it will be useless on NATO bases since nobody else will have theses eco-friendly rounds.

        Of course the US army corps of engineers could take care of the cleaning but the US gov’t isn’t know to be logical

        • Bill

          That lead is recovered and recycled, as is the brass, which helps offset the cost. That doesn’t even take into consideration the health and environmental aspects.

  • nova3930

    I sincerely hope James Mattis de-%&$^# whoever decided this was a good idea and DoD in general. Eradicate all the social experiment BS and get back to the job of finding, fixing and killing the enemy when required.

    • iksnilol

      I dunno, it seems nice to now ruin your own environment while training to kill doods outside the country.

      • nova3930

        Ruin the environment by putting lead back where we found it? Even if you assume that’s bad, the effect is negligible. 2000 year old Roman lead smelters have been found with essentially no leaching into the surrounding area despite quite large quantities of the stuff….

        • Bill

          And bunches of ranges have been ordered to remediate lead and heavy metal contaminated lands and waterways.

    • Shaun Connery Oliver II

      Amen to that! The nightmare-ish stories I am hearing are the reasons why I voted for Trump. I cannot wait for Mad Dog Mattis to get his two hands on this and rip it to shreads.

      • Bill

        General Mattis, who doesn’t particularly like the “Mad Dog” moniker, but prefers being referred to as a warrior monk, understands nuance. He also comes from the Marines, the branch that arguably has the most progressive environmental protection program of any branch. They have also learned the hard way, with things like the Pendleton water fiascoironmental considerations are not mutually exclusive.

        Having run an outdoor range complex, I can say that training and environmental considerations are not mutually exclusive. I wasn’t about to train conservation officers or park rangers and destroy the location to do it.

        • Shaun Connery Oliver II

          Okay. I see your point.

    • Bill

      Look up the figures on drone strikes over the last 8 years.

    • May

      I don’t think you know what the term ‘social experiment’ means.

  • Phil Hsueh

    What’s the point in putting seeds into training rounds to add plants to these ranges when they’re just going to all chewed up by the impact of the training rounds? This has got to be the dumbest thing that I’ve heard in a while.

    • Malthrak

      This is probably the one legitimate counterpoint ive seen in this thread so far. That said, a lot of ranges for these things are just big open fields that are dozens or hundreds of acres in size where vegitation could grow without being obliterated all the time, I’m reminded of Pendleton’s range where the 40mm grenade launchers get played with and the tons of shrubs about.

    • iksnilol

      Probably spores and seeds will get spread around by the shockwaves.

    • Bill

      ANYTHING to reduce mud, standing water and dust would be great. Yeah, it’ll get chewed up, but if there is a fast-growing grass that could stabilize the soil a little, it’d be a huge help.

      I generally prefer gravel small arms ranges as they are easier to maintain than gravel and don’t tear up trainees and equipment like blacktop or concrete. I actually sought out advice from the state extension office and a college that has a turf science program for golf course managers on how to manage grass (weeds) ranges.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    “Further, its mentioned that the Army would envision the ability to embed
    seeds into the projectiles and cases themselves which can then use the
    biodegrade able munition as the jumpstart to growth.”

    wut

    • A bearded being from beyond ti

      Wasn’t this some seriously weird thing someone in the US government proposed about filling bullets with seed to grow trees or something? Sounded like a joke.

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        If theres any more room in our bullets we need to fill it with more bullet.

        • iksnilol

          “We just fire the entire bullet, that’s 65% more bullet per bullet”

          -Cave Johnson

          • Dougscamo

            Still watch that video and laugh my a#$ off everytime…..classic….

          • iksnilol

            Man, Cave was a true visionary.

            Like, these stupid guys are developing lighter ammo and stuff but they still haven’t caught up to Cave’s level. Don’t make ammo lighter, FIRE THE ENTIRE BULLET PER BULLET! Then you can scale it down to current projectile weight and keep the same lethality while carrying a bajillion rounds for the same weight.

            /rant over

      • Rem870

        I was afraid to even look into what this meant. Self composting bullets. These leftists will want mary jane seeds in the bullets.
        “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has bioengineered seeds to withhold
        germination for several months until the new materials naturally
        degrade. The seeds can also consume contaminants as they grow.”

        • A bearded being from beyond ti

          Apparently it was a republican that suggested it.

          • Tim

            Yeah; Malthrak. He’s here defending it like Rosie O’Donnel with a ho-ho.

      • Rem870

        “Corporal, cover our left flank with the Petunia rounds while i hold off the frontal assault with the Daffodil rounds !”

  • Tim

    Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock…….8 more days, Stumblecrats…

    • Malthrak

      Why is trying to make less of a mess sometbing so apparently reviled…?

      Besides, the contractors bidding for this stuff are pissing into coffers on both sides of the aisle, lets be real here…

      • Tim

        Ok, your turn, Uncle Joe.

        • Malthrak

          Sure…whatever that means this week.

          • Tim

            It means I’m tired of the junk, social-enviro engineering solutions to non-existent problems promoted by people with superiority complexes.

          • Malthrak

            And you think silly gak is going to end in 8 days…?

            You are gonna have one rude awakening.

            Likewise, lead (and other substances) contamination is not a nonexistent problem, even if you dont like the solution.

          • Bill

            Hey, the mutt was too lazy to walk down a flight of stairs and had to take an escalator to announce his bid for office. The Incoming is definitely no friend of conservation or the environment.

      • Kivaari

        There’s nothing wrong with limiting a mess. But when they start talking of planting seeds with training munitions they have lost track of reality. Putting heavy metal on target leaves iron behind. Putting grenades out leaves plastic, steel and aluminum. So far nothing too damaging to the environment. Now with 5.56mm M855A1 there’s no more lead. Some ranges could be mined for lead and copper the concentration is so high. Do it. Dig down 4 feet, sift it, wash it and smelt it.

        • Malthrak

          There’s a reasonable counterpoint, which is likely entirely valid. Lots of those ranges probably could.almost be industrially mined 😀

  • Malthrak

    So…how many people are going to fail to read the article and go on rants about how this proposed idea for training ammo, not intended for combat use, is going to have disastrous consequences on apparently newly castrated units in the field…that wont be using such ammo there?

    Oh look, almost all of them…

    Jesus people, its fine not to like something if you have a real reason, but at least read the article and have some clue.

    • May

      Outrage culture at its finest.

  • User

    We live in verry interesting times.

  • Kivaari

    Planting seeds by artillery rounds and grenades! Really?

  • Rick O’Shay
    • manna

      He had kids?

  • Kivaari

    Too bad there is no one in charge that knows anything about ammunition and explosive projectiles.

  • Would seeds even be able to survive a small explosion, or be viable after being entombed in biodegradable plastic for several years?

    Seems like they could just modify a few cropduster drones to seed the entire range.

  • Don Ward

    Doesn’t this same “story” run every year or two?

  • CharlesH

    In other words: We’ve run out of things to spend money on, but don’t want to return it to the citizens.

  • Ron B

    The Chinese have nothing to worry about.

  • I for one hope this happens and eventually trickles down to smaller caliber rounds. What will the Anti-gun argument be when our rounds are “Eco-Friendly”…. We aren’t “Going to the range” anymore… we are “Off to save the planet”

  • Edeco

    New Earth Army technology.

  • Warren Ellis

    You know, if this is also used on the battlefield, that might mean you could also tell the US military was somewhere by the plants growing in various battlefields. Kind of humorous I feel. The world’s deadliest gardening company.

    Pulverizing, mulching, and fertilizing the earth with the liquid fluids of its enemies.

    If they’re firing sakura seeds, we’ll be getting a lot of sakura trees. 😛

  • TheGAGLine

    For the love of gawd! Wake me up on January 20th

  • Wolfgar

    I think this is turning into a Star Trek episode where enemies never actually fire any munitions at each other but determine casualties by a computer and then calmly walk into a vaporizer booth for destruction. Must save the planets from destruction. This could also be a tactic to get Putin to laugh himself to death.

  • Tassiebush

    Officially sanctioned sowing of wild oats

  • Tassiebush

    I totally get the desire to reduce pollution. That’s reasonable enough for a heavily impacted training area. Certainly has benefits for the well-being of staff and water catchments. Also may enable ranges to remain viable as surrounding areas change or build out. May even enable them to go where they previously weren’t feasible. My only reservation is that stocking training munitions with seeds would probably increase their cost.

  • Bill

    From reading some of these comments I’m thinking there are people who ate lead paint chips as kids. That or they use empty, fired cartridge cases as ear pro so the contaminants have a shorter trip to the brain.

  • Bal256

    I just have to question what training ammo is. Besides blanks, everytime I was training, I thought we were just shooting old M855. From boot camp to yearly quals we shot green tip. Maybe the odd M193. Is getting a different supply for training ammo an army thing?

    • Phil Hsueh

      For larger rounds, like around 20mm and up, they’re usually just inert rounds with not armor piercing tips, probably no tracer elements, and no explosives or incendiaries in them either, just solid hunks of metal.