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Energetics, propellants limiting factor for army munitions goals despite funding

A Repkon furnace starts the metal part production for the 155 mm artillery shell at the GD-OTS facility in Mesquite, Texas. (Janes/Meredith Roaten)

While the US Army is chipping away at its 100,000 rounds of 155 mm per month production goal, the time it takes to kick-start the production of energetics and propellants for different munitions is still a challenge for the service and the defence industry, an army official told Janes on 29 May.

The army is “confident” it can reach 100,000 shells per month by the end of the year, Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth told reporters at the opening ceremony for the General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems (GD-OTS) new metal parts production line.

That goal “could slip a month or two”, she said. If that happens, it will likely be because of production capacity for the internal parts of the ammunition, said Major General John Reim, programme executive officer for the Joint Program Executive Office Armaments and Ammunition (JPEO A&A).

“When the war first broke out, the limiting factor was metal parts,” he said in an interview. “Affectionately, we refer to it as ‘we operate at the speed of steel'.” That has all changed as production has caught up on that front, but energetic fills and propellants are now the focus of JPEO A&A.

Even for the 155 mm shells made at Mesquite, the shells will not be completed until they are filled with explosive materiel at the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant. That facility has the capacity for 30,000 shells to fill a month. General Dynamics is opening a load, pack, and assemble facility in Camden, Arkansas, which will have a capacity of up to 50,000 rounds a month, Maj Gen Reim said.

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