The shelf-life assessment and formulation of Life-cycle models of different types of ammunition, will assist in forecasting appropriate time for use, replacement or renovation and prevent unacceptable risk involving safety and performance.
Quality and reliability of ammunition throughout its service life has been a cause of serious concern in operations logistics and military planning. Ammunition contains high energy material and is designed to be as lethal as possible during its use and as safe as any other equipment during its handling. The functioning of ammunition consists of irreversible reactions or a process. The system mostly comprises of a combination of either - electronic, mechanical, chemical or structural sub systems, which cannot be fully tested in the integrated forms without partial or full destruction. The ammunition is susceptible to extreme environmental conditions, temperature, humidity, impact, electromagnetic radiation, and attacks by insects and handling by inquisitive unqualified personnel.
Ammunition is kept in storage in different depots for a considerably long period of time after production. The quality deteriorates with ageing due to environmental factors, manifesting in changes to safety, reliability, and performance characteristics. The ammunition deterioration during storage has considerable economic as well as catastrophic consequences as seen from the series of fatal accident world wide as well as in India. The improper storage of ammunition, without periodical inspection & turnover increases fire/accident risk in the depots. The situation has resulted into number of accidents in the depots in the recent past. The ground situation has been highlighted in various Controller and Auditor General (CAG) Report on improper storage, turn over, excessive scales etc.
Need for Shelf Life Assessment
The ammunition has an assigned shelf life which depends on its design and chemistry of propellants / explosives used, and is prone to deterioration / decomposition even under normal storage conditions. The designed shelf life is given as per the life of the subsystem which has the lowest shelf life under normal conditions of storage. As the operational exposure of ammunition products varies and hence functional life may be different. The ageing ammunition assets can turn in to liability in case not properly cared. Each type of ammunition has an assigned shelf life and needs to be subjected to periodical inspection. In order to keep a tag on the quality of ammunition during various condition of storage, there is a need to conduct periodical health check of ammunition in order to predict its behavior under different conditions. The surveillance or visual depot inspection, depot proof, are part of such assessment. The exceptions during each stage must be predicted, detected, identified, and mitigated to prevent unacceptable risk involving safety and performance.
For a Weapon system the serviceable ammunition logistic and operations costs comprise up to 70-80% of a systems life-cycle cost. The life-cycle management and cost concepts of ammunition have never been given the consideration it deserves. Hence the need for shelf life assessment and formulation of Life-cycle models of different types and calibres of ammunition for generic guidance. There is a need to develop Models to predict quality of ammunition at a given time and such models can also be used to control manufacturing process and depot storage conditions. The resultant predictive model can be used to determine the appropriate time for use, replacement or renovation of the ammunition. The task involved is time consuming and requires certain infrastructure.
shelf life is a critical logistics element of the total life cycle incorporating both preventive and corrective maintenance elements to ensure the ammunition is kept in the highest state of readiness. Quality evaluation during life cycle to determine the current condition of the inventory entails test, surveillance, and prediction of the effects of ageing and environmental exposure on all in-service Ammunitions. It enhances the ability to analyze and predict the safety, reliability, and performance of ammunition using scientific data and trend analysis. The QE program will help in Identification of causative factors those originating from design, assembly, maintenance, handling, storage, deployment and interfaces with weapons and combat systems. Timely identification of potential deficiencies will provide information to make decisions required to optimally manage the ammunition inventory and procurement plans as well as determining maintenance requirements for ammunition by providing technical and statistics based evaluations. The present system of surveillance or visual inspection at depot and Proof is grossly inadequate to assess the remaining life without predictive technology. This responsibility can be taken over by DGQA organization.
Predictive Technology Laboratory for Ammunition
It is heartening to note that DGQA Organization has taken initiative to set up facility for Life Assessment and Predictive Technology for ammunition, which is operational and only of its kind in India. The predictive technology laboratory (PTL) at CQA (A) Pune Kirkee has been established to develop advanced tools and methods to objectively analyze and predict ammunition behavior during its entire shelf life. It entails both prognostic and diagnostic checks conducted on the ammunition products.
The Laboratory has Specialized / skilled manpower trained in breakdown and recovery of explosive filling, ranging from pyrotechnic, initiatory, low and high explosives. They also provide special services Indian Armed Forces, Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) & DRDO for assisting in indigenization &development of ammunition by reverse engineering method, besides validation of ammunition involved in Fire accidents affected by shock waves, retrieval of lodged rounds from the Gun, in situ spot investigation.
The predictive technology laboratory (PTL) at CQA (A) Pune Kirkee has been established to objectively analyze through prognostic and diagnostic checks and predict ammunition behavior during its entire shelf life.
Broad capabilities include Shelf life extension, Defect Investigation, failure analysis and periodical health check program for stockpile, testing through accelerated ageing (ISAT), modeling and simulation and advanced Statistical Analysis of test data through IMC techniques as per NATO standards. The Predictive Technology Lab has with some of the state of Arts facilities/equipment for each of their sub segments:-
- Ammunition Breakdown Laboratory.
- ISAT / Environment Test Laboratory.
- Explosive Analysis Laboratory.
- X – Ray Laboratory.
- Metallurgy / Mechanical / Chemical Laboratory.
- Disposal Ground.
- Explosive Store Houses.
- General Engineering Workshop.
Life Cycle Modelling
In order to keep a track on the quality of ammunition during various conditions of storage, there is a need to predict the ammunition behavior under different conditions. The predictive life assessment is essential to avoid the catastrophic consequences by forecasting the appropriate time for use, renovation or replacement of the ammunition. There is need to have a team from the army's ordnance branch to be posted at this facility with all the details of stocked ammunition to interact closely with CQA (Ammunition) for ammunition related issues. The data collected by them will go a long way in developing such models, through Interaction with agencies concerned with design, development, production quality assurance & Users, and will address safety concerns and other technical issues. Need to compile the data relating to product quality lot wise, and correlate them with product defects observed during exploitation. Such product databases will enable leveraging the knowledge and confidence in simulation at various levels of resolution. Needless to say that such information must be shared amongst the all interfaces. This would also tangibly reduce premature down gradation or failure of ammunition in storage and operational use, thus achieving optimized safety, performance and longevity.