Going Forward

Article by Guest Author: Jack Imber
Author of the book DEMINER available from Amazon

For several years stored munitions have been micro-chipped for inventory control during storage and transportation. Scanning entire bunkers, containers, and warehouses have brought a level of accuracy that would have been extremely difficult and very time consuming using the old manual method. The microchips are self-powered with a battery life of approximately five years. They will remain active for the storage phase of ordnance life span but are not durable enough to withstand deployment.

What if ordnance could be tagged with microchips which could withstand the forces and rigors of being dropped, fired, launched, thrown, or placed? If this was a possibility then clearance and land reclamation would become more efficient and thus less time consuming. The unexploded ordnance could be readily found, identified, safely removed and accurately recorded.

In 2006 Battelle Memorial Institute, Columbus, Ohio, completed such a test at the request of the Department of Defense (DOD). This was published in a number of papers including "Enhanced Electromagnetic Tagging for Embedded Tracking of Munitions and Ordnance During Future Remediation Efforts" (MR-1272) by SERDP (Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program) and ESTCP (Environmental Security Technology Certification Program). A passive RFID model microchip by Texas Instrument was used in these trials. The results were conclusive that this process is, in fact, feasible. A protocol called "Operation Lost Puppy" has since been presented by this author employing a similar microchip/detector format but with the addition of a secure database.

"The Operation Lost Puppy" protocol was presented at an Ordnance Safety Symposium known as Parari in 2011. Surprisingly, the ordnance manufacturers thought this concept was potentially viable. Realizing that unexploded ordnance is hazardous waste they felt they had a responsibility to become involved in the cleanup phase of cradle to grave responsibility of their products. As an added feature, the possibility of receiving reports of their failed ordnance interested them very much. Although, dialog about this endeavor showed great promise the average response has been "This is a great idea. This should be initiated, but by who?" And so the idea, like so many other useful possibilities sits waiting on a shelf until someone or some government department realizes that ordnance tagging needs to happen now.

Until then we shall still be clearing newer deployed UXO the slow, old fashioned way: scanning the ground with metal detectors that only tell that something is there and then digging up "who knows what."

For further clarification on this subject, please go to THE JOURNAL OF ERW AND MINE ACTION, Issue 16.3. "The Need for Collaboration Between Ordnance Manufacturers and UXO Clean-Up Personnel." Technical data may be obtained in the book "IEEE Transactions on Magnetics" Vol. 42, No. 7, July 2006, starting on page 1883.


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DS's Gravatar Interesting idea. I can see its instrumentation in assisting the world of UXO clean-up, however I wonder about other issues such as having a database hanging out there (we all know how secure these are) that an enemy could tap into to discover our exact stock of ammunition (I could see how that could be advantageous however, e.g., deterrence). Also, what about "secret squirrel" operations where we don't specifically want any potential identifiers out there. Not to mention the whole "litigation" issue - think of the things we have to do now to launch an attack ... now that our "rounds" are marked, it brings a whole new level to conducting a "legal" operation. There just seems to be too many issues that a lowly guy like me can think of that would deter this practice.
# Posted By DS | 11/5/15 6:40 AM
John Bastien's Gravatar With the production of ammunition there is a need to be able to produce items in a sustainable manner, with the ability to ramp up mass production. Chipping ammunition items themselves, especially unguided artillery types would be rather a fruitless activity. Especially when you have to be close to the item for RFID to work. Also the end state condition adds another factor. High value items such as missiles and air drop guided munitions are serial number tracked. The target area can be easily tracked if there is a dud. The same for GPS artillery may apply. At present the current doctrine of accurate strikes for most munitions (even artillery) should allow for historical logging of these points in a battle space. Area weapons such as cluster munitions are coming out of favor, so if used will most likely be employed in attacking enemy formations etc. However they are slowly being removed from inventory.

RFID tracking for self contained weapons such as grenades and M72/AT4 could assist in internal storage and security tracking.

There is also the wonderful world of black ammunition.
# Posted By John Bastien | 11/29/15 8:28 AM
Jack Imber's Gravatar Authors Note: According to the Journal of ERW and Mine Action Cluster, in 2015 cluster munitions were extensively used in Libya, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen. So we may agree that this type of munition is still in use and continues to be a prolific munition of choice for war fighting.
As far as proximity of detection is concerned, remote control drone aircraft is adopted for scanning and location. The "secure" data base involves specific detector capabilities and user connectivity.
Please know that I sincerely value your comments and welcome suggestions on progressive use of existing or future technologies to make the UXO remediation industry more efficient. ---With gratitude, Jack Imber
# Posted By Jack Imber | 2/4/16 11:11 AM

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