CRANE, Ind. (NNS) -- Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) was awarded the Team (Marine Corps) Department of Defense Value Engineering (VE) Achievement Award at a Pentagon ceremony June 17, for their innovative solution to a problem the warfighter faces while in combat.
The DoD VE Achievement Awards program is designed to honor those who made a significant VE contribution within the last fiscal year by reducing costs, improving quality, enhancing effectiveness, and increasing efficiency throughout the DoD.
NSWC Crane's Marine Corps Javelin [missile] Launch Tube Enhancement Team achieved this coveted award by creating a simple solution to significantly improve the durability of Javelin launch tubes, ensuring safe and effective missions for the warfighter.
Using Value Methodology, through functional analysis and analysis of applicable alternatives, the Special Missions Team designed and qualified a protective urethane coating for the Javelin launch tube. It's estimated that the protective coating will reduce the number of launch tube replacements by 90 percent, by making the tube less susceptible to cracking or damage during combat.
A collaborative effort was made within the Special Missions Center between the Ground Systems Sustainment Branch of the Munitions Division and the Ordnance Electronics Integration Branch of the Operations and Assessment Division to support this project for the Marine Corps' Systems Command, Infantry Weapons Systems - Anti-Armor Systems. The Marines' requirement for the team was to improve the reliability and durability of its Javelin launch tubes.
Medium-range Javelin launch tube [missile] system is the world's first one-man portable, practical "Fire and Forget" missile-system. Highly lethal against tanks with either conventional or reactive armor, the Javelin [missile] provides support and protection to infantry, scouts and combat-engineers in the battlefield. A simple-to-operate and reliable weapon system, the Javelin has two major components: a reusable Command Launch Unit (CLU) and a missile sealed in a disposable launch tube assembly.
"Unfortunately, the launch tube was found to be susceptible to cracking when subjected to sharp impact-forces. This cracking posed a long-term [usefulness] issue because the missile inside depends on a closed envelope [configuration], keeping it protected and dry," explained Mike Huffman, technical project manager.
"There is no way to fix a cracked tube, so the unit would need to be sent back so the missile could be put into a new tube," he explained. "This was initially priced at $7,000 a round, but after re-evaluating the cost, the repairs were finally priced at $25,000 per round. Obviously, is a pretty significant cost to fix something that initially only cost $80,000."
To help manage costs and to better serve teams in the field, the Marines asked NSWC Crane to "ruggedize" the Javelin launch tube.
To first assess the problem, NSWC Crane engineers conducted leak tests on Javelin launch tubes returned from the field - used, but never fired - and found a 64-percent failure rate.
"One tube even came back with 13 leaks," Huffman noted.
NSWC Crane scientists believed that these cracks could result from nearly any kind of impact and could occur through normal use in the combat environment. When packed in the back of a HMMWV, for instance, bumping against other equipment could cause a crack. As a solution, the team adapted a commercially available coating that makes the composite launch tube less susceptible to crack or abrasion damage during exposure to combat environments.
Searching for the correct protective option for the Javelin launch tube, Special Missions Center engineers focused on finding a solution that was durable, light-weight, reliable and cost-effective. They tested spraying a bed liner onto the tube or placing foam on the outside, as well as other options, but arrived at an effective solution that met the Marines' requirements in the form of a protective coating.
Applied by brush, the protective coating adds only six-tenths of a pound of weight to the unit while greatly improving its durability.
As of December of 2008, Special Missions Center had put the coating onto 1,200 missiles, with approximately 1,000 more units still to be treated. The improvement's cost avoidance of approximately $25,000 per tube is expected to yield a total cost avoidance of nearly $10 million. The improvement not only reduces potential rework costs, but most importantly, has improved the durability of the system.
Not only will the launch tubes work more effectively, the warfighter will hardly notice the weight difference, making them no more onerous to transport. This development also was recognized when the team was named as one of four finalists for the 2008 Defense Logistics - Technology Implementation of the Year Award.
Known commonly as the Defense Logistics Awards, the honor was established to recognize and promote the logisticians in the Department of Defense (DoD) and the defense industry who have made a momentous difference to the field, honoring their significant contributions to the industry and to their end users, the warfighter.
"This is where we make a difference for our sponsor and the Marines in the field - beyond just cost savings, this improvement definitely made a real, practical difference," Huffman concluded.
For more news from Crane Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC Crane), visit www.navy.mil/local/crane/.