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