Monday, October 31, 2011

Military Technology - M992 40mm IR Cartridge

Here we have one of the winners from US Army's Greatest Inventions of 2011 competition. It is called the M992 40mm IR cartridge. And it is pretty cool. The M992 was approved for use in October 2010 and can be fired from the M230, M320 and the older (but still in service) M79 40mm grenade launchers. I don't know if it would be able to be fired from the Mk.19 automatic grenade launcher, but I am guessing not. It can be used for illumination or for signalling- I imagine it is visible for miles when at its apogee and being viewed from Gen.3 or 4 Nightvision goggles by a helicopter pilot.

We have been using parachute flares launched from flare guns and mortars for a very long time, at least since WWI and possibly before. They were great in that they provide a great deal of light for soldiers to be able to see, navigate and fight at night. But of course they also provided the same benefits to the enemy, free of charge. In contrast:

"IR illumination burns longer, significantly increases the area of battlefield illumination and its performance is less sensitive to temperature and firing conditions compared to the standard visible light illumination,"
---James L. Wejsa, Chief of ARDEC's Pyrotechnic Tech and Prototyping Division.

The M992 solves that by releasing light that is (mostly) in the infrared spectrum. Hmm... Science class is now in, kids.

Pay no attention to the microbicidal region, unless you want to kill some bacteria. As you see, infrared light is beyond the wavelength of what the human eye can see. But Nightvision devices are designed to see it very well and translate it into an image that we can see. If you would like to know a little more about nightvision systems you can check out an earlier post by that most well informed and erudite author, me.

Back on topic, IR light can be seen by nightvision scopes but not the naked eye. And nightvision systems have a limited range, enter the M992. Let me use a photo to show you its effects.

As you can see, the outcome is striking. And it could make a huge difference to troops in harm's way. Of course, if the enemy possesses nightvision equipment, than the IR flare will benefit them as well, but that is not too much of a problem at the moment.
This is not the first IR illumination round though, they also exist for all US mortars, artillery, and I believe there is a 70mm rocket version.

From the Picatinny Arsenal:

"The M992 provides a capability not previously available to the Soldier that takes advantage of U.S. Armed Forces technology to improve night-time operation success," said Gregory Bubniak, Project Officer for 40mm Ammunition, Project Manager Maneuver Ammunition Systems (PM-MAS). "It enhances night operation capabilities of troops equipped with night vision equipment, while producing minimal visual signature outside of the infrared spectrum. This will allow users to access the approximately 90,000 cartridges available in inventory. "

MISSION: Satisfy the Soldier Enhancement Program requirement set forth in support of development of a 40mm Infrared Illuminant Cartridge. To satisfy the immediate need for a round which will enhance detection and recognition of targets, as well as, extend maximum range for currently fielded night vision equipment. Visible light output will be minimum, thus reducing probabilities of location disclosure. To provide a 40mm Infrared Illuminant Cartridge to all units currently equipped with M203 Grenade Launchers and supporting night vision devices. Contractor: Thiokol TYPE: FFP License Agreement Required

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