Contamination of military ranges from low order detonation and unexploded submunitions is a significant environmental and personnel safety concern for the Department of Defense (DoD). Even the acceptable failure rate of submunitions results in a significant number of items that must be removed from DoD training ranges.

Mr. Charles Robinson, Mr. Jeffrey Smyth, and their team from the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) addressed this issue by focusing on the development of microelectro-mechanical system (MEMS) enabled safety and arming submunition fuze-technology. Research into this technology stems from an updated DoD policy on reducing the rate of unexploded ordnance 

(UXO) for all submunitions to less than 1% by 2018. The technology eliminates causes of submunition unreliability, and also contributes to alternative concepts to comply with DoD policies to reduce or eliminate lead energetic materials from fuze components. Physical dimensions of MEMS devices can vary in size between several millimeters to smaller than one-micron. An improved detonation propagation mechanism (explosively driven flyer-driver) was demonstrated in MEMS-scale fuzing devices. This provides an improvement over legacy lead-based initiator technologies with less-reliable direct-contact initiation mechanisms that may require unreliable mechanical air gaps.

Development was aided through leveraging efforts by the Joint Services Small Arms Program (JSSAP), the Small Arms Grenade Munition (SAGM) Program, and the Cluster Munition Replacement (CMR) Program. The MEMS-enabled reliable submunition (MERS) program and output-technology provides a transferrable solution for improved munition-fuze reliability, reduced UXO, and improved safety that can lead to submunition designs that comply with DoD policy.

For their efforts in addressing this issue, Mr. Robinson, Mr. Smyth, and the Advanced Fuze Mechanical Engineering Team at the U.S. Army ARDEC have been awarded the 2017 SERDP Project of the Year from the Weapons Systems and Platforms Program Area for their project titled MEMS-Enabled Reliable Submunition.

Project Team

  • Charles H. Robinson - U.S. Army RDECOM ARDEC
  • Jeffrey R. Smyth - U.S. Army RDECOM ARDEC
  • Daniel Stec - Leidos
  • Emily Cordaro-Gioia - U.S. Army RDECOM ARDEC
  • Rodger Cornell - U.S. Army RDECOM ARDEC
  • Thinh Q. Hoang - NSWC IHEODTD
  • Christopher Morris - U.S. Army Research Laboratory
  • Daniel P. Schmidt - U.S. Army RDECOM ARDEC
  • Luke Currano – U.S. Army Research Laboratory
  • Charles Romaniello III - U.S. Army RDECOM ARDEC 

Jeffrey Smyth, U.S. Army – RDECOM ARDEC, accepts the 2017 SERDP Project of the Year for Weapons Systems and Platforms from Herb Nelson, SERDP Acting Executive Director. (Photo by Trish Gottesman)