Probably since the first rock was fastened to the tip of a stick, the need to be aware of one’s surroundings has been a cornerstone of military training.
But recently, the U.S. Army took this environmental appreciation a step further by seeking bids for the development of biodegradable ammunition that could be used during training exercises.
The request was made via the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, and offered some unique and specific guidelines. Namely, the Army wants this new ammo to be embedded with specialized seeds capable of growing plants that will aid in the breakdown of the dispensed ammo, shell cases or packaging.
In reality, this RFP is focused on the weaponization, if you will, of seeds that have already been created by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Army’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab (CRREL) bio-engineered these seeds with a delayed germination feature. So after the round is fired, the materials housing the seeds are given enough time to break down, and not hinder the seed’s growth.
Due to the firing mechanisms of small arms, like rifles and machine guns, the initial targets for such training ammo will be larger projectiles where small debris shouldn’t compromise weapon functionality.
So initially this green ammo would replace the metal grenades, mortar shells and field artillery rounds currently in use. The leading material candidate right now is biodegradable plastic. Research has also been done involving the use of reinforced bamboo fibers.
And although no official reference has been made, the prospects of 3D printing these rounds can’t be ignored.
Once the contract is awarded, the work will be divided into three phases, with the first focusing on 40 mm grenades and 120 mm anti-tank training rounds.
Contractors have until February 8 to submit proposals.