Sandia LabNews

Sandia tests conventional weapon created to penetrate hardened, buried targets

Sandia tests conventional weapon created to penetrate hardened, buried targets

Sandia engineers have successfully tested a new conventional weapon (non-nuclear) that provides US forces a way to penetrate hard, buried targets such as weapons storage bunkers and command/control facilities.

Tactical Missile System-Penetrator (TACMS-P), an accelerated three-year project, integrates an Army TACMS booster developed by Lockheed Martin with a Navy Strategic Systems Program (SSP) maneuvering reentry vehicle that was designed, developed, and tested by Sandia.

Sandia was chosen to build the integrated Earth Penetrating Warhead (EPW) based on the Labs’ proven expertise in high-speed flight system design, precision navigation, guidance, control capabilities, and penetrator technology, says David Keese (15404), Deputy Director of Aerospace Systems Development Center 15400.

"This represents a great accomplishment for the Labs and the nation," says David. "It demonstrates the feasibility of the first high-speed, precision-guided EPW delivered from a deployed tactical missile system."

Sandia and Lockheed Martin conducted the flight test of TACMS-P on March 11 at White Sands Missile Range.

The test was conducted under a joint Army- Navy Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration funded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD).

TACMS-P performed as expected, demonstrating integration of the Sandia warhead with the modified Army TACMS missile as well as meeting specific range, accuracy, and penetration objectives.

The TACMS-P was fired from a Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) M270A1 launcher at Launch Complex 33, and flew to a pre-determined altitude and speed to separate the EPW from the booster.

After separation, the booster locked its fins and continued on a ballistic path while the EPW used its movable fins to guide it to a fixed, hard target using a navigation, guidance, and control system developed at Sandia.

The inert penetrator used for this flight test was recovered from the target structure to assess overall weapon performance.

Eric Schindwolf (15425), project department manager, says the project encompassed a body of innovative research and development that led up to the successful test.

"This was symbolic for the Labs," he says. "Various integrated system design activities enabled the success of the test. This is the type of program that energizes the imaginations of the participants and moves them to do great things. It was quite evident in the result."

The memorandum of understanding between the DOE and the Department of Defense provided valuable research and development for three key areas of the project, says David. These included the penetrator case design, fuze technology development, and high explosive fill. All of these penetrator elements must withstand the very harsh, high-deceleration environments encountered during target impact, he says. During penetration the fuze must function and begin a critical chain of events that ultimately results in the detonation of the warhead.

After the first test, the Sandia team is already preparing for subsequent missions.

Additional flight tests are planned for summer and late fall, and several additional residual weapons will be delivered to the government.

The ultimate goal is to have TACMS-P ready for industry to produce the system for military use, says David.

John Hill, Naval Surface Warfare Center, says the Navy is extremely happy with the successful flight. "Our primary objective was accuracy, and we met that beyond our expectations," he says.

Thomas Floyd, Army Precision Fires Rocket and Missile Systems, says the next flight test will look at other aspects of the project. "We will continue the path forward in assuring the best product," he says.

The ATACMS family of munitions includes the ATACMS Block I, Block IA, and the Block IA Unitary. The ATACMS Block IA Unitary was successfully used for the first time during Operation Iraqi Freedom. In February, Lockheed Martin received a contract to produce ATACMS Block IA Unitary missiles for the Army.

"The team consists of a variety of personnel from centers throughout the Labs," says Bill Guyton, Director of Aerospace Systems Development Center 15400. "This includes scientists, engineers, researchers, and administration."

The following organizations participated in the project: 1800, 2300, 2500, 2600, 2900, 3100, 9100, 12300, 14100, and 15400.