The Panel on Ballistics Science and Engineering at the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) conducted its review of ARL’s programs on battlefield injury mechanisms; directed energy; and penetration, armor, and adaptive protection on June 5-7, 2017, at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), Maryland, and conducted its review on disruptive energetics and propulsion technologies; effects on targets—ballistics and blast; and flight guidance, navigation, and control on June 19-21, 2018, also at APG. This chapter provides an evaluation of that work.
ARL’s research in the area of sciences for lethality and protection during the 2017-2018 reviews included basic research that improves our fundamental understanding of the scientific phenomena and technological advances in battlefield injury mechanisms in human response to threats, human protective equipment, directed energy programs, programs that address weapon-target interactions and armor and adaptive protection developments, disruptive energetics and propulsion technologies, effects on targets including ballistics and blast, and flight guidance, navigation, and control each focused on innovations designed to benefit the warfighter. ARL’s breadth of Sciences for Lethality and Protection Campaign work is performed within the Weapons and Materials Research Directorate (WMRD), the Survivability and Lethality Analysis Directorate (SLAD), the Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate (SEDD), and the Computational and Information Sciences Directorate (CISD). These directorates working collaboratively execute their mission of leading the Army’s research and technology program and analysis efforts to enhance the protection and lethality of the individual warfighter and advanced weapon systems.
The study of battlefield injury mechanisms is a relatively new area of research at ARL, and ARL has shown greatly improved coordination and focus over the past two years. Excellent progress on many topics by both researchers and management was observed during the review. There has been considerable
improvement in prioritization of projects, at least in the near term, while some of the specific goals and timelines of the remaining elements of the program need to be better developed and articulated. The ARL focus on the definition of biological injury in materials- and engineering-relevant terms is a necessary step in moving this critical area forward and may be unique in the field. Other groups studying this area have concentrated either on the biology or the materials aspects but not on both. The focus at ARL on identifying the critical size scale of injury is correct, and the emphasis on the translation of animal data to humans is necessary and positive.
Accomplishments and Advancements
ARL is defining battlefield injury mechanisms in materials science and engineering terms, differentiating itself from the medical community, and thus providing unique input to injury modeling/simulation and armor requirements for injury prevention and assessment. Contributions from researchers and management have significantly increased the focus and coordination of this highly multidisciplinary team. ARL is establishing itself as a leader in this complex area, developing effective collaboration with the relevant medical, materials, and engineering communities both within and outside the Department of Defense (DoD).
The focus of the battlefield injury mechanisms research group is to develop an understanding of the translation of traumatic injury from ballistics or blast to the definition of injury mechanisms to allow the design of improved personal armor. Extremity, head, sensory organs, and torso are all of interest, but initial emphasis is on the combat helmet. The approach is to develop a human trauma model from porcine data that ultimately results in an improved helmet design. Major differences between human and porcine skull required transfer function definition of tissue and cell mechanical properties, and threshold conditions for injury. It is assumed that the human and porcine heads will deform similarly, transfer data to the predictive model of ballistic injury, and confirm results on a second animal model (which was not defined). The objective of the programs is a 20 percent reduction in weight of soldier armor—an ambitious goal. Projects focus on development of a predictive ballistic injury model; identification of critical injury size scale using porcine data; measurement of mechanical properties of tissues, cells, and biological molecules as required input to the injury model; and linking the animal data to humans to predict human response. Overall, the area focus is well described, and integration of the various and diverse technologies to achieve the stated goals is well formulated. However, timelines and resource levels needed for success in defining brain injuries (or other ballistic induced trauma to the human body) were not defined.
ARL management is complimented for creating a comprehensive program, with talented, energetic scientists who cover the skills needed to define and make progress in this area. This is an excellent start, and ARL is encouraged to continue to grow this area.
The modeling of force response related to ballistics for differing scales of injury is an appropriate use of staff and resources to solve ARL-related issues for soldier injury. Most of the studies are currently creating threshold baseline data to input into models related to molecular, cell, and tissue characterization. ARL researchers are developing custom protocols and techniques to gather proper and relevant data into the models for simulation of deformation of skulls, brain, and limbs. These tools could continue to be supported and developed to help direct efforts toward soldier-related injuries. There seems to be a very good working relationship with collaborators, who are able to provide access to equipment,
expertise, and data for input into the models. Overall, the modeling projects within the battlefield injury mechanisms initiatives fit well with ARL priorities. The effort by the research staff and collaborators to produce the proper computational tools shows potential for enabling a better theoretical mechanistic understanding of damage caused by ballistic and blast forces on soldier injuries.
The project on modeling the porcine response to mechanical loading has developed a comprehensive finite element model (FEM) based on material subroutines included in the commercial software, LSDYNA, to simulate the response of impact on a helmet placed on a porcine head. The software is certainly suitable for analyzing the problem if realistic material models and values of parameters in the model are available. The project has modeled the helmet composite, the skin, the skull, and the brain tissue with different material models. This effort has made significant progress in putting together various submodels, studying an impact problem, and getting preliminary results.
The project on modeling surface waves in ceramic armor coupled the photon Doppler velocimetry (PDV) diagnostic to the problem of material strength and fracture under dynamic impact relevant to scenarios of bullet or fragment impact. The researchers on this project are commended for seeking a collaborative effort that includes both experimentation and simulation. The development of damage models—specifically, material fracture—is highly complex, but with significant impact toward the design, development, and specifying requirements for personal protection equipment.
The development of a computational framework to investigate the effects of mechanical loading on voltage-gated K+ and Na+ using molecular dynamics simulations for studying electrical transport between neurons is relatively a small effort. While K+ and Na+ are not the ions of greatest interest in characterizing neural damage, they are sufficiently characterized in experiments necessary for model inputs. This work is largely proof-of-concept for a computational framework to conduct simulations at this scale. The researchers are commended for considering damage markers across length scales in the larger context of brain injury. However, this project was largely disconnected from the other projects due to the lack of possible experimental comparisons and relatively small project funding.
Understanding behind helmet blunt trauma injury using the mini-pig model to study and quantify trauma to the human brain is a potentially powerful analogue. Custom apparatus (sensors implanted) and techniques to make in situ measurements have been developed to gather data. A baseline model has been created that can be used to evaluate human data. Clearly, this fits into ARL core mission priorities to provide the resources and staff to improve protective equipment standards for soldiers and discover baseline data of actual forces that cause injury to the brain. This investigation has been successful in showing that protocols can be developed with custom-designed equipment to measure comparable locations of the force of a single impact on a helmet. The continued support of these types of projects that develop tools can lead to applicable deliverables that could improve protection of soldiers and provide leadership in adaptive characterization methods.
The anatomical variability and posturing modeling initiative makes an important contribution to ARL’s modeling effort by providing a general method for modifying existing finite element models of the human body to incorporate variations in gender, size, and posture to be expected in any real-world scenario. This method is a cost-effective way to provide estimates on the variability of model outputs due to these input distributions without laboriously remeshing the base model for each change. The project is well conceived and competently executed. The work uses appropriate modeling tools and the computing resources are adequate for the task. Results to date both on simple scaling of size and on more complex positional changes are consistent with experience and warrant continued development and validation.
The investigation of helmet response to ballistic loading was undertaken to develop models and methods to measure impacts on materials used in helmet protection. Clearly, this too fits into ARL core mission priorities to provide the resources and staff to improve protective equipment standards
for soldiers. This project evaluates current ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) and Kevlar materials to establish baseline data to resist deformation caused by actual forces from impact and penetration. A model was developed that correlates very well with experimental data for the blunt force absorbed into the polymer laminate composites (delamination or ricochet depending on the angle of impact). The model was predictive for flat panel versus curved structures to assess UHMWPE and Kevlar. It is advisable to continue support for these types of projects that develop tools that provide leadership in adaptive characterization methods and that could improve protection of soldiers.
The project on mechanics of soft armor is aimed at modeling the ballistic response of soft armor (Kevlar) utilizing a finite element approach. The advantages of knit structures are the increased stretch of the resulting fabrics, less mobility restrictions, and increased comfort when compared to woven structures. Knit soft armor may offer significant improvements in extremity protection without sacrificing soldier mobility. The finite element model developed has proven effective in predicting how changes in fiber chemistry or knit construction impact the ballistic protection of the resulting soft armor. Collaboration with the U.S. Army Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center (Natick) shows effective interactions with relevant Army laboratories.
The experimental program investigating neuron health after being subjected to various strain and strain rate environments as inferred from visible doping techniques showed an interruption of protein transport from individual neurons following mechanical deformation. This project was part of a larger effort seeking to understand damage markers at a cellular level for traumatic brain injury (TBI). The problem is an ambitious, but potentially high-reward, investigation into a suspected critical aspect of diagnosing mild TBI. Potential outcomes include a definition of cellular damage thresholds relevant to Army-specific hazards. A clearly defined threshold for TBI that could be used to guide the design and development of test protocols for personal protection equipment would be a transformative accomplishment for future prevention of behind-helmet blunt trauma injuries. The state of the art in diagnosing TBI is very rudimentary, and discovery of neuron response with mechanical insult is a reasonable approach.
ARL has acquired state-of-the-art equipment for applying digital image correlation (DIC); this is especially true for conducting stereo-vision DIC at high speed using the newest digital camera technology. An example of DIC use is characterizing the constitutive behavior of the skull subjected to ballistic loading conditions, which is a crucial step in the development of predictive models for blunt trauma. The experimental program has developed a methodology to characterize the material strength of skull bone matter by coupling DIC with the quasi-static compression experiments to obtain this type of data. The multilayer aspects of skull structure suggest a modeling approach with discrete layers of different strength. The diagnostic data collected is well suited to immediate use of continuum material models (e.g., homogenized property definitions) or sophisticated mesoscale models of porosity and multimaterials (e.g., spatially variant property definitions). The project is being conducted with clear impact toward system-level simulations of behind-helmet blunt trauma injuries. The experiments have successfully provided needed experimental data of material strength in surrogate (porcine) samples, and the results have been extended toward human skull structure. There are many excellent examples of the DIC being applied at ARL to a variety of experimental programs.
The research focus on the detection of impact-induced nanostructured changes in brain tissue is a unique technique that describes the development of an ultrastructural analysis tool. The utility of this tool within this study produces scan data using X-ray diffraction of a rat optical nerve and full brain slice scans. These scans can be used to evaluate “ordered” biological specimens and, with contrast agents,
“less ordered” proteins. This study investigated the regulatory proteins that are ordered within single optical nerve fibers. The goal was to measure and develop the ability to characterize nanometer space changes in the layered nerve structures after impact.
There are different testing geometries between civilian data (car accident) and military data that do not allow direct comparison of injuries to the lower leg. Thus, the Army has taken a leadership role in investigating military-related injuries. The investigation of lower leg blast injuries was undertaken through the design and development of methods to measure the impulse on lower leg simulants to provide baseline data that could be used in the design of boot protection. Clearly, this fits into ARL core mission priorities to provide the resources and staff to improve protective equipment standards for soldiers. Multiple impacts (4) from a floor panel were studied on a control lower leg (no boot versus a boot) with regard to lower leg injury. This investigation has been successful in showing that a properly designed boot can protect against lower leg injury of a soldier in a neutral seated posture. The modeling program related to these tests focused on ankle and tarsal fractures in foot location under high pressure. It is advisable to continue support for these types of projects that develop tools that can lead to improved protection of soldiers and provide leadership in adaptive characterization methods.
Quantification of the ballistic response of ceramics is an important area of study experimentally and computationally, and one in which ARL is among the leaders in both experiments and simulations. Taking a two-prong approach, better experimental monitoring of the performance of protective systems, both brittle and ductile, coupled with the state-of-the-art computations, has increased Army tools for prediction of armor behavior, with an emphasis on multiple-hit phenomena. This is an area that is deserving of strong ARL support, both with infrastructure and personnel, if both predictive design and performance capability for ceramic armor is to be achieved.
Blast injury to the dismounted soldier, via shock coupling to the body of the warfighter, remains a persistent and complex problem. Measuring the buried charge effects (primary) to test protective armor in addition to aerosols and debris (secondary) is well justified. This fits into ARL’s core mission priorities to provide the resources and staff to improve protective equipment standards for soldiers. This project further evaluates high-velocity soil propelled by buried explosives on the degradation of current uniform fabrics. It reflects a blast injury problem identified by military surgeons in which ARL is uniquely qualified to investigate. This study evaluated computational models for blast delivery velocities using a shock tube and fabric model simulations that generated data from experiments to input into soil and fabric models. This allowed for development of standard blast methodology that can be used to develop new fabrics.
Challenges and Opportunities
ARL is to be complimented on having created a well-focused, unique, multidisciplinary research team focused on a critical, highly complex, multifaceted research area. The overall coordination and focus of work has greatly improved over the past two years. ARL needs to continue to focus on coordination across this area. The emphasis on identification of critical size scale of injury is correct, and further emphasis in this aspect represents an opportunity for further study. ARL focus on the definition of biological injury in materials and engineering terms may be unique in the field and is needed to move injury protection forward.
ARL’s research group is maturing but has not yet developed as a cohesive group. Therefore, a continued focus on team building and diverse competencies is needed. Integration of computation and experiment appears to be well done, but the level of modeling and its integration in the research does not seem as sophisticated as that in other areas within ARL’s science and technology (S&T) portfolio. Increased emphasis on modeling in the battlefield injury mechanisms projects is strongly suggested.
The battlefield injury mechanisms portfolio seems well connected to outside groups, although the nature of collaborations was unclear. ARL needs to pursue activities aimed at impacting and organizing the larger external community in this area, taking a leadership position in sectors of the injury mechanisms S&T area within the DoD and the larger academic community. As one example, ARL’s focus on quantifying and translating animal data to humans appears strongly warranted, necessary, and positive. ARL is probably a leader in this aspect of the field and could represent one area for ARL to lead the external research community. Two types of pigs were discussed, and the response of the two types is not the same. Therefore, there is the challenge of pig-to-pig transfer function as well as pig-to-human transfer function. This approach of developing transfer functions is very important for making substantial progress on inferred injury mechanisms to humans based on animal studies.
A challenge to the battlefield injury mechanisms team lies in finding a common language that transcends the disciplinary range of the team. The opportunity is to provide unique solutions to the prevention of injuries caused by nonpenetrating ballistic impact such as traumatic brain injuries and compressive force injuries to the extremities. Effective definition of priorities, timelines, and strategic goals in this complex area are continuing challenges.
Finally, ARL’s battlefield injury mechanisms programs have reached the level of maturity where timelines, well-defined goals, and a well-defined overall program roadmap are critical to guide future work.
Modeling the porcine response to mechanical loading is very challenging, and its satisfactory solution requires expertise in the areas of constitutive modeling, estimating values of material parameters from test data (assuming that it is available under test conditions likely to prevail in the impact event), numerical analysis, and interpreting results of numerical simulations. The development of the software, LSDYNA, is based on several assumptions. The user needs to be aware of these assumptions and various subtleties in using the software. Once the use of the software has been mastered and reasonable values of material parameters and so on have been determined from test data, then it will be a powerful tool not only for analyzing and ascertaining the damage induced by impact loads but also for designing new armor.
In the project on modeling surface waves in ceramic armor due to the stochastic nature of brittle fracture, experimental design of model validation is a challenge. In this case, the burden is on the experimentalist to quantify experimental uncertainties. The large-model development effort presented in the project on ballistics response of ceramics could be reevaluated to better leverage the modeling capabilities of the ALEGRA computational framework with the experimental conditions uniquely of interest to the Army.
The development of a computational framework to investigate the effects of mechanical loading on voltage-gated K+ and Na+ using molecular dynamics simulations for studying electrical transport between neurons represents an intriguing scientific challenge. The largest challenge to this project is related to the lack of experimental data for the Ca+ ion, the ion of major interest, and conducting simulations at a scale sufficient to draw conclusions about the operability of systems of neurons. Connecting the outcomes from this project (at molecular scale) to the project studying porcine brain response (at the single-neuron scale) is currently not possible. The research framework may benefit from a reevaluation of the best use of ARL resources and team skill sets.
Understanding behind-helmet blunt trauma injury using the mini-pig model to study and quantify trauma to the human brain is a potentially powerful analogue. The major challenge is the comparison
of the animal model to what may occur in a human. There is a need to discover what forces are causing micro-tissue and vascular damage even though the helmet can successfully stop the projectile. Also, there is a need to plan and develop infrastructure for survival surgeries of animal models to discover long-term outcomes. There are opportunities to try to change the protocols to measure animal survival health and possibly lead to an investigation of what areas of the brain are being affected by the injury (motor functions). Data measured can be used to guide new standards in characterization of blunt trauma injury and development of models to improve animal-to-human correlations.
In the anatomical variability and posturing modeling thrust, although the level of effort is modest, considerable thought could be directed to a thorough validation protocol, given the expected widespread adoption of this adaptation to human models for many purposes.
The investigation of helmet response to ballistic loading was undertaken to develop models and methods to measure impacts on materials used in helmet protection. The testing of materials under varying environmental conditions (temperature, etc.) could also be explored to discover changes in material properties as a function of the environment. There are opportunities to develop a high-throughput assessment of newer polymers and composites for helmet protection, and to compare these to existing materials being used in current helmets. Baseline data measured can be used to guide new standards in characterization of blunt trauma helmet protection models.
The project on mechanics of soft armor is aimed at modeling the ballistic response of soft armor (Kevlar) utilizing a finite element approach. The project may benefit by teaming with university research groups with extensive fabric mechanics expertise—for example, North Carolina State University or Clemson University.
It needs to be noted that modeling the response of ceramic armor is very important, and extremely challenging, given that ceramic armor has been studied since the late 1960s. Although progress has been made in fracture initiation and propagation, a robust and highly accurate computational ceramic constitutive model for multiple impacts remains elusive. The same can be said for some of the substrate materials (e.g., UHMWPE, Kevlar, etc.). Some of the new diagnostics described in the “Penetration, Armor, and Adaptive Protection” section have promise in elucidating fundamental mechanics of failure and propagation.
Significant challenges exist in terms of relating neuron response to the manifestation of post-traumatic stress disorder, mild TBI, and severe TBI that is challenged further by limited staff availability and skills. Due to the problem complexity, progress may be likely only from a focused research thrust that is supported through a team of researchers with a multifunctional skill set consisting of microbiologists, biomedical engineers, shock physicists, and mechanical engineers. While the individual researchers could communicate the interconnectivity of different research projects, as a whole, the effort appeared too small (both in terms of staffing and funding) to make meaningful contributions to this field within a short time frame. The team stated that funding for the current multiyear program was ending this fiscal year. There are significant opportunities to capitalize upon the recent emphasis toward mitigating additional TBIs, the unique Army hazards, and the immature state of the art for ARL to dominate the research of TBIs from a materials and engineering perspective. ARL is at the cusp of establishing a transformative research program coupling engineers, microbiologists, and physicists advancing experimental methods and computational models for the future prevention of behind-helmet blunt trauma injuries. ARL’s program would benefit from a larger strategic effort with transparent and clearly articulated goals that closely couple the Army medical researchers, the ARL research team, and other external researchers (e.g.,
sports injury researchers), perhaps within a multiagency research consortium. Some brief mentions were provided of external collaborations, but presented information remained largely focused on the local ARL researchers, resulting in an assessment that potential programmatic reward will be limited in scope.
Characterizing the constitutive behavior of the skull subjected to ballistic loading conditions is a crucial step in the development of predictive models for blunt trauma. Challenges exist in relating quasi-static material properties to the simulation of dynamic impacts along with the development of material strength models suitable for representing the large human population from singular experiments. The applicability of the material strength models being developed under low strain-rate conditions could be considered relative to the strains expected under conditions of behind helmet blunt trauma. A useful undertaking would be for ARL representatives to participate within the external DIC community. Also, ARL needs to increase its focus on uncertainty quantification. Efforts toward understanding the interplay between experimental factors and the measurement uncertainty of quantities were largely unreported. Characterizing skull material strength has the ability to impact the warfighter directly through improved personal protection equipment and also the larger knowledge base of human physiology. ARL’s unique position to contribute to this understanding from a mechanics of materials perspective is unrivaled by other agencies. It would be beneficial for ARL to lead the experimental research in this effort. Because of the mesoscale variations of skull materials, the ability to advance model development from homogenized properties toward spatially resolved predictions could be exploited by growth in the area of mesoscale computational model development.
The research focus on the detection of impact-induced nanostructured changes in brain tissue is a unique technique that describes the development of an ultrastructural analysis tool. A significant challenge to this work is the measurement of the shear forces on the structures within the brain and the resulting mechanical response to tissue degeneration. The next steps could include the investigation and characterization of the compromised regulatory structure force response to translate from the single fiber structure (nerve) to bundle (nerves) to brain tissue model. The project may also find it fruitful to investigate control/direct loading versus impact loading on nanometer space changes between layers. There is extensive research being conducted related to football and other sports injuries on TBI and ARL needs to be knowledgeable of and strongly coordinating with that community.
The investigation of lower leg blast injuries was undertaken through the design and development of methods to measure the impacts on lower legs to provide baseline data that could be used in the design of boot protection. Trying to institute new boot standard specifications may not be popular with troops. There are opportunities to try to scale models of boots desired by troops for comfort and protection. Data measured can be used to guide new standards in specification of military boot to provide protection from injury.
Blast injury to the dismounted soldier, via shock coupling to the body of the warfighter, remains a persistent and complex problem. The challenge is to measure the injuries sustained by a soldier due to deteriorated fabric exposed to debris. There are opportunities to study operationally relevant experiments to measure shock and debris kinetics on fabrics. This also allows the investigation of the critical role in the failure of fabrics due to wear patterns to material type and distance from the blast.
The ARL directed energy (DE) program focuses on radio frequency (RF)-DE and laser-DE. ARL leadership and research teams successfully implemented some of the recommendations of the previous Army Research Laboratory Technical Assessment Board (ARLTAB) report. Specifically, the collection of presented projects demonstrated a coordinated strategy across the enterprise for the laser-related DE
work, with indications of much greater collaboration with the Navy and Air Force. Internal to ARL, principal investigators (PIs) from the DE sessions demonstrated greater awareness of work done with threat warning and countermeasures. The quality of the programs will continue to benefit from even deeper and more frequent collaborations both internal and external to ARL to foster rapid innovation with operational and contextual relevance.
The DE work presented aligns with the overarching goal of developing new knowledge and technologies associated with lowering size, weight, power, and cost (SWAPC) of army-vehicle mounted offensive and defensive DE systems. Low size, weight, and power (SWAP) improvements for the protection and hardening of platform apertures were also investigated.
Although ARL is not working to develop fully functional DE systems, the work presented aims to make unique impacts in the areas of compact power, propagation, and target response. Other novel or high-risk areas of work include beam control, thermal management, and material effects for Army-centric operational scenarios and demonstrations. Use of high-peak-power, ultrashort laser pulses to “burn” their way through the air and obscurants to create quasi-steady-state waveguides called filaments is a complex, high-risk area of basic research. The mechanism is based on super-heated air (plasma) depositing energy in the air causing heat-induced changes in the index of refraction on the order of millisecond time scales. Secondary pulses or quasi-continuous wave (CW) DE propagating along the same path “sees” the thermal disruption path as a lower loss waveguide.
In contrast, the overall strategy for the RF-DE work was not as evident based on the topics presented. Specifically, The RF work appeared to remain fragmented and unrelated to the overall mission. For example, the operational context of the cognitive radar and the counter-unmanned aircraft system (UAS) work was not apparent. Progress made over the course of the last two years was not evident in two projects—cognitive radar and counter UAS.
Accomplishments and Advancements
Overall, the DE research program demonstrated positive trending in adding value to the body of research and development (R&D) knowledge with relevant operational focus and alignment to the ARL enterprise strategy.
Some ARL researchers are pursuing complex, high-risk areas of basic research, and this is encouraged to continue. This work includes novel waveguide concepts investigating a high-risk, low-technology readiness level (TRL) technique to improve laser propagation through atmospheric mediums using high-peak-power, ultrashort laser pulses to “burn” their way through the air and obscurants to create quasi-steady-state waveguides called filaments. Further, ARL presented two additional projects that encountered materials properties challenges that the PIs were aware of, and they are encouraged to be persistent in pursuing solutions. Those projects focused on low-loss fiber and ultra-low-quantum resonantly pumped illumination.
Particularly outstanding laser DE work is being performed. The work reported on exploiting Raman lasers to greatly improve fiber power output is exceptional and is an archetype for research at ARL that complements other DoD laboratories while not duplicating academic or industrial research. The key evaluation metrics were exceeded in the presentation of this work and include excellent contextual reference with alignment to the overall strategy; definition of quantitative objectives based on models (e.g., using the chart that identified Raman gain predictions); and establishing aggressive benchmarks for success and demonstrating consistent progress. Another example of exceptional work was multiple chromophore mixtures for sensor protection focused on technology to protect and harden the sensors on Army assets against DE threats. The method uses nonlinear optical materials and coatings that are
frequency agile in the visible spectrum to passively protect Army optical sensors from DE-laser threats such as that from straight damage, jamming, dazzling, and so on.
ARL has made substantive progress over last 2 years, addressing many of the shortfalls identified in previous ARLTAB reports, including increased collaboration with a diversity of research partners to validate and compare results or address experimental and modeling gaps; growth in the knowledge depth of its personnel; prioritized research based on operational relevance in streamlined focus areas; establishing a strategic vision by looking at operationally relevant drivers and trade-offs to determine where discovery is really needed; and system-level or event-driven discovery rather than disparate seemingly random and siloed projects. While most of these improvements directly apply to the laser-DE program, the overall quality of work is good and on an upward trend, with examples of exceptional work.
The overall scientific quality of the research is comparable to that at leading national and international institutions, with several projects demonstrating impressive quality and uniqueness with realistic potential for high payoffs, such as diode clad pumped broadband Raman fiber lasers working to achieve potential power scaling in the ballpark of 80-100 kW from a single fiber aperture, and nonlinear optical materials and coatings that are frequency agile in the visible spectrum to passively protect army optical sensors from DE laser threats such as that from straight damage, jamming, dazzling, and so on.
ARL demonstrated a willingness to push and even lead the technological edge by pursuing a focused selection of exciting, high-risk work that the ARLTAB encourages ARL to continue. Select laser-DE work demonstrated exceptionally disciplined research approaches, while some projects could benefit from a more disciplined approach to model validation. More fundamentally, RF work can benefit from vision and focus demonstrated with laser work in order to show continuity and measurable progress.
An exceptional accomplishment is the work on exploiting Raman laser to greatly improve fiber power output and is an archetype for research at ARL that compliments other DoD laboratories while not duplicating academic or industrial research. Additional exceptional work is the nonlinear optical materials and coatings that are frequency agile in the visible spectrum to passively protect Army optical sensors from DE-laser threats such as that from straight damage, jamming, dazzling, and so on.
Challenges and Opportunities
In order to provide a more comprehensive assessment of research activities, improvements in the presentation logistics and structure in future ARLTAB panel meetings is needed. The ARLTAB had a difficult time in assessing two of the major components of the evaluation, specifically “quality of the research” and the “qualifications of the research team.” Therefore, it was difficult to make those assessments when some principal investigators were not present. Substitute presenters did well but were unable to answer detailed questions—for example, on cognitive radar, lasers through the atmosphere, and efficient Er-based mid-infrared (mid-IR) laser. Essential classified material or underlying classified concept of operations needs to be presented in classified venues—for example, on counter-UAS, ultrashort radar, and cognitive radar. Presenters need to clearly articulate the contextual reference by including the operational context, research goals, and progress toward more model-based benchmarks. By following the model of those presentations identified as exceptional, future presentations may include quantitative objectives or analytically derived requirements.
The positive trend toward operational focus could be applied to the RF-related work. The RF work appeared to remain fragmented and unrelated to the overall mission. For example, the operational context of the cognitive radar and the counter-UAS work was not apparent.
There are indications of much greater collaboration with the Navy and Air Force. In addition, internal to ARL principal investigators from the DE sessions were aware of work done with threat warning and
countermeasures. However, greater collaboration could uncover additional innovation and is strongly encouraged.
Several of the projects lacked quantitative objectives or analytically derived requirements—for example, counter-UAS lacked tactically significant range targets. The projects could benefit from a more disciplined approach to model validation.
The work on utilizing the thermal signature of an ultrashort pulsed laser filament for guiding fiber lasers investigates a high-risk, low-TRL technique to improve laser propagation through atmospheric mediums using high-peak-power, ultrashort laser pulses to “burn” their way through the air and obscurants to create quasi-steady-state waveguides called filaments is a complex, high-risk area of basic research. The work is encouraged to continue maturing novel waveguide concepts.
Some key opportunities to enhance the DE research program remain. There is a greater attempt to tie the projects to a coherent set of mission areas; however, the mission-driven strategy alone is not sufficient. There needs to be a tighter coupling of the research topics to the overarching problems that ARL has chosen to investigate. When asked how projects were prioritized, the answer was incoherent, with support for demonstrations being the key drivers for the research. This was illustrated in the opening presentation describing swarm, counter-swarm, and counter-UAS. The demonstrations were nice but were lean on fundamental research objectives. Model validation continues to be an ad hoc process in many of the projects. Without contextual reference, the study of laser eye safety in an aerosol environment could await system development.
ARL continues to demonstrate a strong record of achievement in the fundamental and applied sciences and the engineering of penetration, armor, and adaptive protection. The ongoing work described in the 2017 review continues to highlight how ARL is building on its history of excellence to provide the knowledge basis for future Army needs in the area of warfighter protection. This is an absolutely critical and core competency that underlies Army capabilities.
A few years ago, there were severe restrictions on attending and participating in technical conferences and symposia. It was good to see that this disturbing trend has been reversed, and the staff is now obtaining approval to present elements of its technical work at venues such as the Society for Experimental Mechanics, the American Physical Society’s Shock Physics Conference, the International Symposium on Ballistics, and the American Ceramic Society’s annual exposition and conference. These and related conferences are great settings for professional development, for the staff to present its work and receive feedback from technical peers, and to engage in technical discussions. Such technical dialogues often lead to further insight, and spark new ideas and avenues of investigation. Management needs to continue to encourage participation in technical societies and associated meetings, as peer review and the ability to always know where the state of the art is moving is critical to this area, especially as so much of the leading-edge research is classified or limited-release.
Accomplishments and Advancements
A well-developed, multifaceted research effort has been established and is being executed. Integral to this initiative is the use of classified computations to support analysis of possible mitigation concepts. ARL researchers have taken high-performance computing (HPC) to a whole new level—an impressive display of using computational sensitivity analysis of a very, very large problem with multiple length scales. The sensitivity analyses have resulted in identification of unknowns and issues, quantification of
design variations, and establishing where basic information is required for higher fidelity simulations. As examples, the computational analyses have identified where fundamental information is lacking. It has been determined that computational results are dependent upon the calculated temperature distribution, and a parametric study of various constitutive strength models showed that the prediction of temperature as a function of time and location depends upon the assumed model.
Although the computational study has identified weaknesses, and fundamental research initiatives are being formulated, decisions are required in the short term to address and mitigate the identified vulnerabilities. This, then, is a significant challenge faced by ARL researchers. A balanced technical effort of HPC combined with well-planned experiments with appropriate diagnostics could provide insights and guidance for progress while a longer-term research effort addresses the fundamental unknowns.
It is interesting to note that the goal of ARL is to conduct the research required to sustain the Army 30 (or 50) years in the future. Yet, the preceding is a major initiative that has a relatively short time frame. Clearly, rapid response to uncovered threats and vulnerabilities needs to be (and is) a part of ARL’s portfolio; thus, the mission statement could reflect the realities of the real world, while emphasizing the need for long-term research.
As part of their HPC initiative, ARL has begun to quantify uncertainties in computational results. Uncertainty quantification (UQ) was not part of the ARL technical initiative one or two years ago, and ARL was criticized by the ARLTAB for the lack of UQ. ARL has responded, and has demonstrated a good start. As an example, researchers examined the uncertainty in computational results for two state-of-the-art transient (dynamic) wave-propagation, solid mechanics computer programs. The researchers determined the uncertainties in the results through parametric studies, which included changes in material parameters and changes in the computational domain (for example, changing mesh size and parsing the problem to different processors). While some results were not surprising (for example, the depth of penetration depends upon the strength of the target material), the researchers found one example where the results differed greatly as the computational domain was adjusted. The root cause was that the algorithm to distribute the computation mesh onto multiple processors was not invariant to how the domain was distributed to the various processors. This issue is being addressed, but it demonstrates the importance of UQ.
Diagnostics and Collaboration
The advanced diagnostics work at ARL has great potential in helping to bring illumination and insight to unresolved problems in dynamic response and failure of traditional and advanced materials. One example is the quantification of material strength at high strain rates by constructing smaller and smaller split-Hopkinson pressure bars (SHPBs). The smallest SHPB utilizes specimens 50 microns in diameter and 25 microns long, and can achieve strain rates of 5 × 105 s-1. Challenges have included development of instrumentation to interrogate the response of the specimen; achieving linearity of the input bar, specimen, and output bar; and even preparing specimens. For example, on a somewhat larger system than the micro SHPB, specimens were prepared by milling or centerless grinding. Since the samples were small, the relative volume of work-hardened material was high, which significantly strengthened the smaller samples. Samples are now prepared through electrical discharge machining, and the sudden increase in strength at very high strain rates is no longer observed for some specific materials.
Another example of advanced diagnostic work at ARL is the development of time-resolved, in situ imaging. ARL researchers are conducting experiments using phase-contrast X-ray imaging at the Advanced Photon Source (Argonne National Laboratory [ANL]). This is a unique, national resource, which the ARL is taking advantage of. The objective is to record in situ observations of microstructural evolution, damage, and fracture in terminal ballistic events. Also, the high-voltage in situ diagnostic radiography apparatus (HIDRA), which consists of 14 flash X-ray sources and includes two synchronized ultra-high-speed cameras used in stereo imaging, has been developed and is being applied to impact of ceramic targets. Integral to the effort is quantitative comparison with computational simulations, which has shown some agreement, but has also highlighted important differences near the impact site, which suggests deficiencies in the understanding of the failure processes. An advantage of HIDRA is that it is an in-laboratory resource that is not limited to availability and scheduling of the Advanced Photon Source (however, see the following concerning the availability of range time).
A collaboration with Ernst-Mach-Institut and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has the objective of developing a multienergy flash X-ray computed tomography diagnostic. This diagnostic, once completed, will image events in three dimensions and at three points in time. At this point, a tomo-gram reconstruction has been accomplished using only four source/detector pairs. Already lessons have been learned about shielding and X-ray film requirements for quantitative assessments.
Penetration Mechanics and Adaptive Protection
Adaptive protection is a subcategory of the Sciences for Lethality and Protection Campaign, with the objective of developing mass-efficient, novel threat defeat mechanisms.
One project is notable because of its success while highlighting a concern. The study used a modeling and simulation tool set that had been developed over the last few years to facilitate mine blast simulations. The technical effort was an HPC study to investigate and optimize a cellular core structure that demonstrated considerable enhanced performance over legacy structural systems to mine blast. At this point, no experiments have been conducted, but an Army partner is planning a full-scale demonstration experiment.
Another subcategory of the Sciences for Lethality and Protection Campaign is penetration mechanics. Approximately one-quarter-scale testing has demonstrated greatly increased penetration, and a few design iterations have been devised to control unwanted and undesirable effects.
Challenges and Opportunities
In 2014, ARL reorganized its research portfolio into four functional campaigns: Human Sciences, Sciences for Lethality and Protection, Sciences for Maneuver, and Information Sciences. ARL also identified four crosscutting campaigns: Extramural Basic Research, Computational Sciences, Materials Research, and Analysis and Assessment. Within a functional campaign, ARL has identified essential research areas (ERAs). This reorganization has permitted ARL to develop an integrated, multifaceted research program to address current and future Army requirements. There are a number of examples of researchers spread among four or five projects, but there is commonality because the projects are related or integrated into a bigger picture. This assists in communication and cross-fertilization. However, some researchers in this area noted that they are spread among four or five projects and that this results in a decrease in depth of the work. This “integrated” approach can be contrasted to researchers being spread over a number of projects that have little-to-no commonality; consequently, the researchers are
now spread thin, with the result of decreased depth in their research. ARL management is encouraged to weigh the trade-offs that each approach offers.
A few items were identified that the ARL staff found to be especially irritating and are impediments to productivity. In particular, the Army procurement system is not designed to handle efficiently the requirements of procurement for a research environment, where items are purchased in very small (sometimes single-unit) quantities. Several researchers identified purchasing as a significant impediment to research. To purchase research equipment like a laser takes about one year due to the “red tape.” It appears that the process for purchasing research equipment is the same as requisition for the Army in general. There were instances cited where it took a year from submitting a purchase request to receiving the item. Progress grinds to a halt if that item is an essential piece of equipment for an experimental program (for example, a laser with specific requirements). Although it is recognized that this is an issue that is beyond the control of ARL, ARL needs to aggressively pursue an approach for developing streamlined procurement procedures applicable to a research environment.
Some operations (e.g., debugging diagnostics) could likely be performed safely with two people, as would be required for indoor laboratories. The number of personnel required for each type of firing-site operation could be reviewed by management to explore avenues to improve efficiency and productivity without increasing safety concerns.
Some important research initiatives are being delayed because testing ranges are shared between several projects. This is not a complaint that people cannot work together, but various projects have different range and diagnostic requirements. Sharing range time often means tearing down the diagnostic setup to permit the next project to set up its respective diagnostics and conduct experiments. Thus, setups and teardowns disrupt continuity; progress is delayed by not having access to the range while another group is conducting its set of experiments. This greatly affects productivity. ARL management is encouraged to investigate what can be done to allocate dedicated ranges to some of its important efforts in the penetration, armor, and adaptive protection program areas.
There is a start of work in the UQ area of research, but there is a long way to go. It was unclear, however, what level of research is being conducted at ARL, or the number of people involved. ARL needs to continue an emphasis in UQ. Further, ARL could pursue the integration of UQ into its data-to-decision workflow that includes modeling and simulation, experimentation, and design. To accelerate integration and given the complexity of its objectives, ARL scientists and engineers could leverage software and methodologies developed at other Department of Energy (DOE) and DoD laboratories.
Regarding the development of anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) soft-kill countermeasures, the current staff has a physics background, which is insufficient for making rapid strides in engineering and development of the project. Perhaps engineers with suitable backgrounds could be recruited to facilitate rapid design and development.
ARL needs to resist going to full-scale demonstrations without any or minimal small-scale testing. Such a rapid rush to conduct “admiral’s tests” limits development of core competency in terms of fundamental knowledge. Further, integrated full-scale testing without the underlying physics understanding does not develop predictive design capability or accurate performance modeling. Additionally, the rush to full-scale testing can lead to very expensive surprises and unforeseen application problems. The cellular core structure underbody blast application was noted as a concern in this area. The structure was designed on computational science. However, the fabricated structure cores were never tested for material response at small scale to verify if the assumed response was obtainable. No fundamental study or validation experimental was performed before the structure was sent for field testing.
Thus, ARL has a good start in UQ, where none had existed a couple of years ago. The concept of UQ needs to be embraced by all the researchers and integrated into their data-to-decision workflow, which includes modeling and simulation, experimentation, and design. To accelerate integration and given the complexity of the objectives, ARL scientists and engineers need to leverage methodologies and software developed at the DoE weapons laboratories.
ARL embraced one of the suggestions of the ARLTAB by establishing an ERA to understand failure of materials, explicitly failure of materials under high rates of loading and, often, high pressures. With understanding, the objective then becomes one of designing materials to manipulate failure and to exploit mechanisms. Predictive modeling of failure requires insight into initiation, nucleation, and propagation mechanisms, which occur at various length and time scales that often differ by orders of magnitude. An essential element to making substantial progress in the physics of failure is the developing of advanced diagnostics that can interrogate material response in extreme dynamic environments.
Diagnostics and Collaboration
The current work using the very small SHPBs, which includes aluminum, Ti-6Al-4V, and tantalum, could be expanded to include a face-centered cubic (FCC) metal (such as FCC copper or a FCC steel), which others have shown to have strong strain-rate strengthening at rates above 104 s-1. This work needs to continue, and results compared with plate impact and pressure/shear experiments. This will probably be challenging in interpretation because of the high pressures in plate impact experiments and the use of different diagnostic measuring devices.
Much remains to be done for the X-ray tomography diagnostic that is being developed, including modification to include spectral analysis, which will allow identification of material type by using three different energy broadband sources. The photon flux versus energy of the sources needs to be established and the algorithms need to be developed to compute material specificity, with all being integrated into postprocessing software. The challenges are nontrivial, and it is highly likely that they will require a sustained effort as unanticipated problems arise and are resolved. However, this diagnostic, once on-line, will be a unique addition to ARL’s suite of experimental diagnostics to interrogate the in situ response of materials in an extreme, dynamic environment.
Penetration Mechanics and Adaptive Protection
Adaptive protection is a subcategory of the Sciences for Lethality and Protection Campaign, with the objective of developing mass-efficient, novel threat defeat mechanisms. The challenge is real-time threat sensing and identification (while minimizing false positives), and defeat of the threat. Individual projects have little cross-fertilization (the nature of these small- and medium-funding level projects are very diverse, with the primary commonality being to neutralize a threat). Some of the projects that fall into this category include the optical threat warner, ATGM soft-kill countermeasures, trajectory alteration, and tailored explosive response. Some of the projects have well-integrated numerical simulations and experiments, while others appear to be demonstrations with little theory or advancing fundamental knowledge. These projects tend to be “stove-pipe,” in contrast to a well-integrated, synergistic research plan like humans in extreme ballistic environments or manipulating physics of failure. While the technical efforts fall under the purview of ARL, many small, remotely connected projects provide management challenges for a well-integrated program.
One project used a modeling and simulation tool set that had been developed over the last few years to facilitate mine blast simulations. The caution is to resist going to full-scale demonstration prior to some confirmation experiments. This work could be linked to an experimental program that is done at smaller scale to validate assumptions in the computational model and to ensure performance of the cellular core structure. ARL could negotiate with the Army partner to move forward a little more cautiously.
Another subcategory of the Sciences for Lethality and Protection Campaign is penetration mechanics. The ARL is encouraged to put an emphasis on this novel approach with continued small-scale testing to explore robustness and to uncover and resolve potential issues. Numerical simulations currently are not able to replicate accurately the experimental results, and a priority could be given to resolving this issue. Initial full-scale testing could be implemented on select designs to ensure that issues with scaling up the concept are understood and resolved.
The focus of research in the disruptive energetics and propulsion technologies area is the exploration and development of new and novel energetic materials that can potentially revolutionize munitions and propulsion systems by enhancing energy release and lethality greater than that provided by traditional energetic materials. The review of the disruptive energetic material and propulsion technology covered the areas of new material synthesis, small-scale energetic material characterization using laser flyers and rapid heating diagnostics, experimental studies of structural bond energy release nanomaterials, quantum to force field molecular modeling, multiscale coarse-grain modeling of energetic composites, and multiphase rocket and gun propellant modeling.
Accomplishments and Advancements
The energetic materials effort at ARL is staffed by exceptional researchers who are providing important advances in energetic material science. In several areas, the research is unique to ARL and leading edge. The chemical synthesis of energetic materials is a relatively new area of research at ARL being conducted by a talented team of synthesis chemists and formulators. A goal of this synthesis effort is the development of high-energy, transitional new energetic materials in cost-effective and scalable quantities useful for improving long-range precision firing of rocket and gun propellants and lethality of explosives.
Current synthesis efforts have concentrated on the development of new energetic plasticizers having performance superior to that of nitroglycerin (NG), and new molecules that form eutectics as a base for melt-cast explosives that exceed the performance of Comp-B. Much of this current research is an iterative process; hence, a method for theoretical evaluation of performance and sensitivity is used initially in selecting candidate compounds. Small-scale synthesis routes are then identified and paths for scale up are sought. Ultimately favorable candidate energetics are then screened for material qualification and application at the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC), the U. S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center (AMRDEC), and the DOE laboratories. Few groups in the United States are conducting similar efforts, and the research at ARL leads the efforts in developing advanced energetics.
Four new energetic molecules have been identified, synthesized, and produced to greater than gram quantities and potentially exceed performance and sensitivities of traditional energetic compounds. Bis-oxadiazole dinatrate (BODN) is an energetic molecule. The formulation of BODN and RDX offers 30 percent improvement in detonation pressure over Comp-B. It can be processed to about kilogram quantities and was selected by the Army for the Molecule of the Year award for its improved explosive
performance. Dioxadiazole fuoxan (DOFO) is a new, insensitive melt-castable eutectic explosive molecule. When properly formulated, it exceeds the explosive performance of Comp-B. DOFO has been produced in about 50-gram quantities, and ARL is pursuing processing strategies to larger quantities. ARDEC has expressed an interest in this material as a castable energetics.
In the formulation of new energetic plasticizers, two new liquids—nitrofurazan isoxazole nitrate and nitrofurazan oxadiazole nitrate—have been formulated and produced on small scale in gram quantities. The theoretical energetic properties of these materials exceed that of NG, and these materials could be useful for replacing high-density liquid explosives and as additives for high-performance propellants. Future efforts will consider new energetics for air-breathing and hypersonic applications.
Novel extended solids, such as poly-CO and N, have the potential to replace conventional military energetics, such as HMX and RDX, in next-generation explosive and propulsion technologies. However, at present these explosives are synthesized using diamond anvil cells and the synthesis of these extended solids is limited to very small quantities. A plasma process that enables reaction and gas phase interactions near carrier interfaces could provide a unique opportunity to synthesize these metastable materials in larger quantities.
The plasma chemical vapor deposition group is developing a novel approach for synthesis of the new extended solids. In collaboration with Southwest Research Institute, an efficient startup plasma processing synthesis capability has been transitioned to ARL; it enables rapid synthesis of approximately gram quantities. The synthesis of nanocrystals of CO has been demonstrated, and sufficient quantities of material have been produced and used in small-scale material characterization and strand burn studies.
To reduce the development time of new energetic materials and evaluation and characterization of potentially new materials requires an approach that is applicable at laboratory scales using small quantities of material (approximately mg quantities). Based on a concept developed in 1980s, laser-driven flyer plates have been applied to assess shock compression behavior in low-cost experiments with high throughput. This capability provides rapid feedback on shock sensitivity of newly developed energetic materials and complements other shock initiation experimental work at ARL.
A testing capability for examining the shock response in approximately 10 mg samples of energetic materials has been developed at ARL, based on laser-driven flyer experiments following the prior research at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. A variety of diagnostics, including video image stabilization and registration, video, and multiflash imaging, provide accurate flyer velocities and impact loading conditions. Light emission diagnostics record optical output following impact. This capability is an ideal characterization tool to understand how an energetic material responds to impact insults and is aligned with a research and development philosophy of “fail early and fail cheap,” requiring only a small quantity of material for characterization. This innovative concept isolates the mechanical shock response of the material and captures the dynamic response of molecular reaction fragments with high temporal and spatial resolution. An outstanding achievement is the development of imaging diagnostics for characterizing high-brightness reactions. The coupled pulse laser with bandpass filters reduces light generation by the reaction and with optical recording of the laser pulse width, length, and frequency provides temporal information. This is a relatively and inexpensive diagnostic and applicable to a wider variety of materials beyond energetics.
The ability to measure molecular behavior at picosecond time scales and resolve thermal shock through materials is necessary to provide a fundamental understanding of chemistry in condensed phase energetics. Currently, little is known about the energy flow processes occurring at the molecular level that lead to the dynamic response of energetic materials. A more fundamental understanding of reactive behavior requires measuring electronic excitations occurring at femtosecond time scales and the coupling
to molecular bonds at picosecond time scales. Fast-pulse lasers and ultrafast spectroscopy offer a unique opportunity to probe the nature of the initiation response of energetic materials.
An in-house capability for indirect flash heating and ultrafast laser shock loading has been developed using laser-based ultrafast spectroscopy and ultrafast dynamic ellipsometry (UDE) diagnostics to examine the preignition excited states in milligram quantities of energetic material. The current materials of interest include TNT, RDX, and HMX, probing the discontinuity of thermal energy transfer existing at the picosecond time scale. Experiments have been conducted to assess optical excitation and molecular response during rapid heating in the absence of shock compression effects. In addition to monomolecular energetic materials, composites were also studied to reveal that small additives significantly affect thermal response even at the picosecond time scale.
Traditionally, shock experiments are used to generate these extreme pressure and temperature states that often provide diagnostics challenges due to the short time scale of sustained shock conditions. Determining the energy release during dynamic loading is a key feature of novel energetics. An area of interest at ARL is exploring the energy release in nanodiamonds (NDs) associated with structural bond energy release (SBER) during shock-induced solid-solid phase transformations. Much of this interest has been theoretically driven. In principle, stored structural potential energy can be liberated so rapidly that explosion occurs. Feasibility of the SBER mechanism has yet to be proved as a viable energetic material concept.
A series of flyer impact experiments using targets of nanodiamonds and composites was conducted by the ARL staff using the dynamic compression sector at the Advanced Photon Source (APS) at the ANL facility. Experimental diagnostics consisting of X-ray sources and high-speed cameras were used to investigate diffraction spectra that would reveal whether the SBER occurred during 150 ns of shock loading. Testing to conditions below the diamond elastic shock condition (below 89 GPa) did not uncover any energy release associated with the melt phase transformations or pressure loading. It was suspected that these impact states were insufficient to induce kinetic or catalysis (plasma) processes during the short duration of the impact conditions to trigger the energy release. Thus, the concept of structural bond energy release remains an open question for shock-induced energy release in nanodiamond-based energetics.
Computational molecular modeling has traditionally been a leading effort at ARL. The researchers at ARL are generally regarded as the experts in quantum mechanical and molecular dynamics (MD) modeling. This expertise has led to the development of computational protocols and tools commonly used by the broader computational community within and outside ARL. Such capabilities have become invaluable for the energetic materials effort, and MD modeling has become an important aspect of multiscale analysis, providing guidance on material behavior at the atomistic to molecular scales. Often, these simulations are restricted to short time and length scales relevant for shock and detonation states. Extended development of a computational-based approach was investigated to address energetic material behavior at much larger length scales and longer times such as that required in propellant combustion and cook-off.
Although this work is in its early stage, the quantum mechanics (QM)—for example, transitional state theory—is merged with the MD polymer modeling efforts to create a hybrid force-field approach to determine bulk properties and chemical kinetic paths and rates for energetic materials. This approach reproduces experimental densities and retains the QM structures and binding energies of energetic clusters. Furthermore, this hybrid method reproduces reaction pathways with more efficient optimization.
Building on these quantum mechanical and atomistic MD capabilities, computation modeling is being developed to greater length scales using a coarse-grain multiscale particle-based approach. A
hierarchical approach is envisioned to bridge the continuum scale, replacing empirical models for predictive full-scale applications.
Dissipation particle dynamics (DPD) coarse-grain modeling has been extended to include chemical reactivity behavior and has been integrated into Sandia’s large-scale atomic/molecular massively parallel simulator. This computational capability has been demonstrated for a simulation incorporating over 1 billion polycrystals of RDX to capture plastic response during shock loading. This refined coarse-grain model of RDX reproduced shear-band formation as a mechanism for energy localization in crystals. In extending this coarse-grain approach to composite energetic materials, a geometric packing algorithm was developed to generate representative volume elements (RVEs). Preliminary simulations have investigated the effects of porosity and crystal defects at submicron scales.
ARL has traditionally developed and supported physics-based modeling of multiphase reactive flow in application to gun interior ballistics and rocket propulsion. This capability is unique for ARL, and historically this modeling has been extensively used to test and evaluate system-level applications. The basis of this modeling is a mathematical formulation that is well suited for simulating reactive two-phase flows of incompressible solids. Incorporated in this modeling is the ability to model primer functions, propellant ignition, charge breakup, flame spread, and development of pressure buildup leading to the solid and gas interior ballistics cycle and muzzle blast.
A comprehensive overview of this modeling highlighted application to igniters and propellant combustion within munitions geometries, demonstrating qualitative comparison to experimental observations of burn front propagation. The links of reactive flow behavior of ignitor, primer, and propellant charge design in the Army’s M829 ammunitions were effectively modeled using this multiphase approach, which will lead to improved primer designs.
Multistep chemical kinetics for gas phase combustion has been incorporated in two-phase modeling, building on the computational molecular modeling being developed at ARL. However, idealized propellant grains are simulated without discrete microstructure and condensed phase chemistry. Nonetheless, modeling of a discrete composite propellant suggests a geometric explanation for an observed slope break in the propellant burn rate. A similar study addressed embedding metal fibers in propellant grains showed enhancement of the burn rate of a propellant.
Challenges and Opportunities
The opportunities in the synthesis area are plentiful. The ameliorated properties make new materials very favorable for explosive and propellant applications (e.g., for use in air-breathing flight vehicles). Having the materials produced in the United States ensures control of supply. Although the challenge of producing sufficient quantities of new energetic materials appears to be on a well-defined path, it is the rate of synthesis that remains an open question. For example, BODN can be synthesized at ARL in kilogram quantities within 3 weeks from the first step of the synthesis. Conversely, TNT can be produced at kilograms per hour. This aspect presents itself as an opportunity to explore various other routes (e.g., using catalysts) that could further secure intellectual property on manufacturing.
Better characterization of materials in formulations is ongoing, and it is important that ARL continue this work. Thermal stability aspects are being evaluated for further applications and manufacturing routes.
In addition to synthesizing new energetic compounds, much of the energetics community is also exploring advanced processing methods, including engineered particle morphologies and additive manufacturing techniques to tailor performance. Opportunities exist to expand the chemical synthesis team to
increase its scope to modernize manufacturing methods. This is especially relevant for propellants, where the interplay of grain composition, particle morphology, and the interaction of binders can be modified.
Although plasma synthesis of nanocrystals of CO has been demonstrated, much remains to be done to unravel the role of impurities, process variables, and material characterization to achieve an enhanced performance propellant. Whether these materials are thermally stable over extended time remains unanswered at the present. The plasma synthesis capability is in its early stages of development, and no assessment is available of its potential for a scaled-up production for quantities suitable for munitions applications.
Much of the characterization efforts have used traditional methods for performance evaluation that follow a largely empirical approach toward optimization. ARL needs to employ multivariate analysis methods to link processing parameters to optimize formulation outputs to advance this work. Evaluating the performance gains within the context of traditional burn rate modifiers may be limited to assess applications for advanced concepts in long-range propellant systems.
The biggest challenge in advancing diagnostics to characterize energetic materials is acquiring state-of-the-art instrumentation. A state-of-the-art laser could provide higher energies that would transform this work and enable increased flyer plate velocities currently limited to about 2.5 km/s. To extend this work to flyer velocities 4 to 6 km/s would make this capability on par with the dynamic compression sector gas guns at a fraction of the cost. Also, improved modern imaging diagnostics could create a new way of imaging the response at suitable temporal scales. The bigger challenge may be expanding the field of view of the optical observations.
Many materials can be studied using this flyer plate diagnostic to advance material science in general, including structural materials, protective materials, and energetics. For example, understanding the response of CuTa, a new alloy developed at ARL with interesting altered mechanical properties, could be studied with this technique. Further development of laser-based diagnostics for analyzing thermally shocked materials requires better understanding of the balance between sample thickness and thermal time resolution. At the fast time scales, heat transfer processes are likely to exhibit non-Fourier conduction behavior that may have a dominant role at early time scales. This may be important in assessing photo-assisted shock initiation behavior planned for future study.
As observed in prior spectroscopy work in condensed phase energetics, observations at fast time scales have often encountered complications in interpreting experimental measurements at the extreme states of rapid energy release. Even temperature measurement at the extreme conditions is exceedingly difficult, because it is likely that the thermal field consists of a spectrum of states due to the myriad of molecular reaction fragments. Thus, defining pathways of reactive response is a challenging effort.
Measuring composite materials with disparate thermal characteristic is even more challenging, because nonuniform thermal fields are likely to produce variability due to microstructure effects. Nonetheless, comparative response using the ultrafast heating and diagnostics may be a viable means to assess the reactive behavior of new energetic molecules.
In future studies of structural bond energy release, experiments using the ARL ultrafast laser shock facility may achieve conditions needed to generate the high-temperature plasma conditions that are currently viewed as necessary requirements to trigger SBER. Although this energy transfer mechanism may be initiated, it is not clear whether useful work relevant to explosives and propellants will be achieved. It was proposed that additional testing could be done at the Z-pinch facility at Sandia; however, the researchers need to consider whether magnetic loading configurations can be designed to create the appropriate plasma conditions. Traditionally, Z-pinch equation-of-state experiments to high pressures (greater than tens of Mbar) are conducted using acceleration waves that are nearly isentropic and significantly removed from plasma state conditions.
In computational molecular modeling, a challenge exists to determine accurate reaction rates for complex molecules, especially nitrate esters and novel plasticizers. Force field parameters that complement molecular dynamics simulations need to be determined. Some aspects such as cook-off and aging may require too long a computational time for MD simulations. Perhaps additional studies with the Caltech Reaxff modeling may help elucidate reactive behavior at longer time scales.
Although computational coarse-grain dissipative particle dynamics has been demonstrated to be a promising multiscale approach, the micron scale of the simulations may not be sufficient to bridge scales to the continuum level. For example, many energetic composites consist of multimodal mixtures of crystals with characteristic scales ranging from tens to hundreds of microns to submicron levels, which leads to representative volumes that are several orders of magnitude greater than scales currently studied with the coarse-grain modeling. More realistic representative volume elements (RVEs) need to be considered to capture internal boundary effects such as defects and porosity, especially because pore collapse, at the micron scale, is currently regarded to be a dominate mechanism for energy localization inducing reactive behavior. A demonstration that DPD can resolve and capture relevant statistical behavior at realistic length scales is an important proof of applicability.
There exist parallel experimental efforts at ARL, in other research areas studying the role of microstructure in material response, to produce more realistic material configurations, using micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) and focused ion beam (FIB) diagnostics. Collaboration with the ARL researchers investigating the role of microstructure associated with damage states may also be applicable to the coarse-grain modeling. Determining the appropriate mathematical measures that are characteristic of microstructures from microphotographs or diagnostics probes of realistic coarse-grain configurations may lead to better insights into material behavior at this scale.
The sequential hierarchical modeling of small-scale physics to larger scales may be a viable method to bridge scales, but it is uncertain how this approach is applied. A better roadmap for bridging the coarse-grain scale to the continuum needs to be identified. More thought needs to be given to other relevant information that can be extracted from the coarse-grain model and how this information is implemented into a macroscale continuum model.
Current reactive models are phenomenological and lack appropriate dependencies of microstructure effects. Furthermore, these models are deterministic and may be incapable of capturing reaction initiation and thermal run-away, especially near the thresholds of reaction, where the effects of rapid dynamic phenomena occur in unstable regimes that are likely to be stochastic in nature. Without a clear path to linking a more physically based continuum model, the bridging methodology may not be a realistic goal.
Toward this end, it is imperative that the modeling remain linked to experimental efforts such as the ultrafast heating and the laser-driven flyer experiments in the energetics program at ARL. Validation of the coarse-grain modeling remains an open area needing attention. The connection of the modeling to the experimental efforts is essential for providing relevant data for validation.
In the modeling and simulation of multiphase reactive flow for rockets and gun propellants, an improvement in chemistry prediction may require incorporating condensed phase reactions and phase changes of the initial solid with the added influences of microstructure of individual grains to position this work to known mission challenges of nonoptimal performance in accident scenarios associated with abnormal mechanical and thermal stimuli. A continued theme in ARL modeling is the need to implement a verification and validation (V&V) strategy and quantify the uncertainties to ensure predictability of the numerical modeling. It was encouraging to observe that mentorship exists in this modeling and simulation area and that early-career staff are being brought in to sustain this effort.
Although this multiphase modeling presented analysis relevant to two-dimensional (2D) modeling, it is uncertain whether this modeling has migrated to include more robust modern numerical methods and
the computational advantages of new computational platforms that can incorporate higher dimensional simulations. As is often the case in modeling, enhancing numerical capabilities, such as multiprocessor computation, offers a means to improve resolution and adaption of more physically based constitutive relationship and submodels.
Similar studies in the multiphase flow area have considered interfacing to discrete element methods, and it appears that such coupling could greatly improve submodels for flame spread and intergranular interactions of propellant grains during combustion.
It is essential to preserve personnel skill sets for handling and processing energetic materials; these skill sets are of vital importance for sustaining this research effort in advanced energetic materials. Additionally, expanding and upgrading the energetic materials production laboratory may be necessary to accommodate future energetic material initiatives such as additive manufacture of energetics and propellants.
ARL has a unique position in the energetic material community to transition from novel discovery to practical application; in-house expertise exists at all levels. To achieve this goal, ARL researchers need to continue collaborations with the other material sciences groups at ARL, universities, and DOE laboratories.
ARL researchers have developed a material synthesis effort from theoretical conceptions, design, scale-up, and performance evaluation to create new energetic molecules that surpass the performance of traditional cast explosives. One such material was designated by the Army as Molecule of the Year and has received favorable status as a candidate for a replacement energetic material in munitions applications. Although the challenge of producing the new energetic material in needed quantities appears to be on a well-defined path, the rate of synthesis remains an open question and a continuing challenge for this synthesis work.
In addition to the wet chemistry routes for material synthesis, alternative research effort has been invested in plasma-based synthesis to create new energetic materials in a scalable methodology. The synthesis of nanocrystals of CO has produced gram quantities of material. This processing capability is in its early stages of development, and it remains to be demonstrated whether this process can be scaled up to meet quantities appropriate for munitions applications. An apparent weakness of the program is the seeming lack of appreciation of the role of impurities and variability of process parameters on the properties of the nanocrystals. A concentrated effort in material characterization to determine the role of impurities and process variables will pay off handsomely when comparing various plasma processing activities leading to CO-based explosives.
Laboratory-scale laser-driven flyer plate tests and ultrafast pulse heating capabilities have been developed to provide quick feedback on shock sensitivity and performance of new energetic materials. An exceptional feature of this characterization research is the requirement of only a small quantity of materials (about one mg) for evaluation. The biggest challenge in advancing these diagnostics is acquiring state-of-the-art instrumentation. As mentioned earlier, an upgrade to a state-of-the-art laser could provide higher energies that would transform this work and enable shock loading that would make this capability on par with the dynamic compression sector gas guns at a fraction of the cost. Improved modern imaging diagnostics could create a new way of imaging the responses at suitable temporal scales and could expand the field of view for optical observations.
Computational modeling of energetic materials has traditionally been a leading effort at ARL. The DPD coarse-grain modeling developed exclusively at ARL has been extended to include chemical reactivity behavior and applied to a simulation incorporating over 1 billion polycrystals of RDX to reproduce shear-band formation as a mechanism for energy localization in crystals. Although the computational coarse-grain modeling is a promising multiscale approach, the micron scale of current
simulations may not be sufficient to bridge scales to the continuum level that otherwise require RVEs that are several orders of magnitude greater than scales currently studied. More RVEs need to be generated using experimental capabilities such as FIB or micro-CT to capture internal boundary effects such as defects and porosity.
It is imperative that modeling remains linked to experimental efforts in all of the energetics programs at ARL. Validation of the coarse-grain modeling remains an open area. The connection of the modeling to the experimental efforts is essential in providing relevant data for validation. A continued theme in modeling is the need to implement a V&V strategy and quantify the uncertainties to ensure that the relevant physics is being addressed for energetic materials.
The objectives of the work on effects on targets—ballistics and blast—are achieving ballistic technologies that are more lethal and more efficiently deployable and achieving protection technologies that are lower in weight. The overarching challenge is the exploitation of the physics of failure in the design of more lethal weapons and more efficient armors. Technical knowledge gained from these scientific pursuits would then be applied to solve applied engineering problems unique to ARL that often have competing motivations related to affordability and complexity of qualifying new technologies.
Accomplishments and Advancements
The researchers presented an impressive coordinated approach to the challenges and opportunities inherent in various technologies. This initiative, in collaboration with the medical community, can also lead to increased survivability of personnel subjected to neurological stress or threats. This example also highlights the highly collaborative nature of this group.
ARL has demonstrated a consistent program on imaging of ballistic impact, with strengthening collaborations enabling the researchers to access state-of-the-art radiography and phase contrast imaging diagnostics for elucidating the fracture phenomena in novel materials in relevant ballistic impact conditions. The ability to scale the problem and image highly resolved complex fracture dynamics is critical to the future of assessing optimized engineering solutions for armor development.
The experimental work and forensic analysis connecting threat to injury to armor design is outstanding. The comprehensive analysis conducted on armor plates obtained from soldiers is particularly impressive. The ability to connect threat level to protective ability of armor and then make further connection to injury is of paramount importance to protecting the soldiers. The quantification of noise, resolution, and uncertainty in DIC for dynamic loading (impact) applications is exceptional. While DIC has gained considerable popularity in the scientific community to measure full field deformations under a range of applied loads, often the method is used blindly without regard to sensitivity and uncertainty in measured displacements. This issue becomes even more severe for dynamic applications in which the time scales are short and the displacements to be measured are small (in the range of a few microns). ARL has made commendable efforts to consult with experts at other research laboratories and identify salient issues on which to focus. ARL now has in-house expertise in the development of a systematic methodology to quantify sensitivity, noise, and uncertainty in dynamic deformation measurements using this DIC-based experimental setup. ARL’s initiatives accessing the HIDRA and the APS at ANL are providing important connections of their experimental enterprise to advanced state-of-the-art techniques, enabling elucidation of fracture initiation mechanisms.
Challenges and Opportunities
Integration of experimental and modeling efforts for current armor materials (B4C and SiC) was not evident from the presentations. Multiscale modeling of deformation and failure (e.g., fracture) in conditions relevant to ballistics presents several challenges. The first is data-driven, well-vetted material constitutive models coupling structure to function in ceramic materials. There is a significant opportunity to explore fundamental deformation mechanisms in icosahedral ceramics (B6O and BAM), including amorphization, to achieve body armor weight reductions. These explorations need to be incorporated into computational frameworks via predictive constitutive models to realize this opportunity. Multiscale stochastic fracture modeling is another challenge. Opportunities to leverage ARL’s many collaborations and the ARL national hubs may accelerate modeling efforts and lead to developments or discoveries of materials well-suited for new applications in armor. The unique diagnostic capabilities being applied at ARL position this group to lead the scientific community in the development of advanced computational and validation methodologies in the design of more efficient and effective materials and structures. The multiscale efforts of the fracture modeling and the energetic materials modeling present a potential for synergies with and broad impact on the external community.
A weakness of the imaging of ballistic impact effort is the apparent lack of a research plan toward the integration of either analytical statistical modeling or computational treatments of fracture phenomena that would be later exploited for design optimization of engineering solutions using these materials. The multiscale phenomena of fracture mechanics will need to employ aspects of material characterization with an emphasis on statistical approaches. As a result, an experimental method with an ability to generate large data sets of material response under a range of mechanical stimulus would be better aligned with state-of-the-art approaches employing data science analysis methods leading to the development of phenomenological models of material fracture.
The ARL flight guidance, navigation, and control program seeks to address one of the Army’s six modernization priorities focused on providing long-range precision fires. The Army desires the ability to deliver fires for distances ranging from a few kilometers up to strategic distances in adverse operational environments (e.g., anti-access area denial, GPS-denied, and cluttered).
Accomplishments and Advancements
The ARL research presented improves the Army’s ability to provide a deeper magazine for a lower cost through advancements in technology areas such as improved munition maneuverability capable of higher speeds and G-loads, lower cost flight control and actuation systems, multimode sensing, characterizing and mitigating of navigation errors and position uncertainties resulting from signal loss, and modeling to predict and optimize performance to shorten the cycle from discovery to delivery. The selection of research areas appears to be aligned with Army objectives and provided insight into ARL’s work to enable weapon systems with greater lethality with lower collateral damage and acceptable safety.
The program benefits from access to unique data and test resources such as the Edgewater wind tunnel, an Army asset with Mach 0.2 through Mach 1.4 capability. This resource was used to achieve good experimental agreement with the models for body/fins interactions in the High-G Tolerant Hardware work, which uses commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware instrumentation modified to accept greater shock. The ARL research team presented work demonstrating the use of aero design optimization tools
and methods (e.g., semi-empirical predictions, inviscid flow solvers developed by NASA, and Particle Swarm Optimization) to develop better initial designs to speed transition and reduce iterations. The flight dynamics modeling work was particularly unique with respect to how flight dynamics uncertainty was accommodated in flight control models to predict behavior successfully.
The presentations demonstrated technology advancements that could provide a significant battlefield advantage to the Army. Specifically, the application of state-of-the-art modeling (vortex interactions) to Army-relevant problems may lead to advances in maneuverability performance for target engagement and intercept avoidance. Lower fidelity models (optimization) were used effectively to support prototype development. The use of unidentified waypoints to reduce trajectory uncertainty may improve probability of target acquisition in GPS-denied environments. The analysis of canard wake/tail fin interactions was excellent and effectively used computational fluid dynamics (CFD) for that problem. The collection of kill chain technologies appears aimed at building some prototype subsonic, maneuvering rounds (with moving target machine learning-based identification and missile homing) for tests in summer 2019.
A number of topics may be better integrated than was indicated—for example, collaboration among the project leads. There were notable interactions with the Navy on the state error evolution estimation for GPS-denied flight. The transition of technology to other government agencies, such as the optimal control algorithms transitioned to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), was notable.
The ARL staff demonstrated excellent understanding of work that translates relevant emerging technologies to Army-unique needs in weapon system engagement. The body of work involving invention, design, and experiment was more evolutionary (versus revolutionary) in nature. With more resources, the research teams could potentially move faster, incorporating revolutionary in addition to evolutionary advancements, as an integrated effort. As presently programmed, the research vision timeline shows testing and demonstrations into 2025 with a likely 10-year initial operating concept.
Challenges and Opportunities
The research work was well done but did not include clear system goals. For example, the low-cost approach to tracking relative locations of swarming submunitions does not appear to consider the parallel need to coordinate impact points among the submunitions that likely must also be addressed within the same functional element. Further, the assured delivery presentations seemed to generalize activities across the different parameter regimes—hypersonic versus supersonic and long range versus subsonic short range. However, it seems that research spanning those operational regimes would have different research needs, agendas, and roadmaps. The presentations focused on solutions directed toward increased maneuverability, but little work was presented on extended range.
The flight guidance, navigation, and control presentations were exemplary of a high-quality program that could benefit from attention in the following areas: end-to-end modeling of operational cases to better characterize parametric goals, additional model validation (e.g., using simulation or experiment), better connection between modeling and experiments, and advanced optimization techniques (such as those used by Boeing).
In addition, future presentations would benefit from establishing clear objectives and metrics for success, including the following:
- Coordination of the subelements to understand the trade space and risks to establish clear objectives and metrics for success.
- System-of-system objectives and overall cost drivers.
- Objectives for improved performance over existing capability. The absence of this was especially notable in the High G Tolerant Hardware presentation, where a comparison with existing technology was not performed.
- Development of effective model validation procedures and close ties between modelers and experimentalists. This includes the modelers guiding the design of experimental tests and feedback for the improvement of the model fidelity.
- A research agenda to augment the major demonstration roadmap.
The ARL research team needs to improve the connection between objectives, challenges, and methods and how the research topics fit in the long-term research strategy along with nearer-term technology demonstrations. The progression of research is slowed by competition (both internally and externally) for staff with particular skills and experiences. There seem to be adequate computational facilities to conduct the simulations; however, there are barriers to sharing and collecting data with remote sites.
ARL leadership and staff need to continue building coordination between modelers and experimentalists to incorporate high-fidelity validation into model development and design. Shared software and tools along with shared physical and virtual workspace would aid more effective collaborations in flight guidance, navigation, and control technical areas.
The projectile optimization code development needs to be continued and extended to include viscous effects and higher, more realistic flight speeds. ARL could use faster, more effective optimization procedures following methods developed for transonic aircraft such as adjoint optimization. Opportunities for future research might also include development of coupled fluid and structural dynamics to predict realistic performance under high-G conditions. It is not clear why hypersonics as a research topic was deemed out of scope for the ARLTAB review; research in this operational regime may lead to revolutionary discoveries.
Research and technology demonstrations would be aided by strategic growth in staff in the following areas: computer science (e.g., optimization, estimation); artificial intelligence; electrical engineering (e.g., high-speed electronics, embedded electronics, field-programmable gate array programmers); and experienced subject matter experts and technician support to accelerate demonstrations.
In the battlefield injury mechanisms area, the integration of experiment and modeling is well done, although the level of modeling sophistication does not seem to match that of other ARL research groups. The group is at an early stage of defining key mechanical impact limits of injury, and this has been correctly identified as a critical end point for the group. The ARL team is to be complimented on having built effective bridges to outside research groups both within the Army and with universities. ARL needs to explore collaboration with investigators studying football and other head injuries. By nature of its approach, ARL is assuming a leadership position in this difficult and critical area of study. Focusing efforts on brain injury and helmets is justified and allows research focus in a very broad area of study. Overall, the group is talented and is maturing as a team that has not reached its full potential. Continued focus on team building and definition of deliverables and criteria for acceptable progress is ongoing. The scope of the work undertaken by this group is very broad, and it is not apparent that sufficient resources, especially in key areas of biological and computational sciences, are available. There is an apparent issue in communication between the various disciplines in this highly interdisciplinary research group (generally true when bringing physical, biological, and engineering assets together). This represents an
opportunity for ARL to catalyze educational programs designed to facilitate communication between diverse scientific disciplines.
In the DE area, the overall scientific quality of the research is comparable to that at leading national and international institutions, with several projects demonstrating impressive quality and uniqueness with realistic potential for high payoffs. The DE program focuses on RF-DE and laser-DE. Internal to ARL, PIs from the directed energy sessions demonstrated greater awareness of work done with threat warning and countermeasures. The quality of the programs will continue to benefit from even deeper and more frequent collaborations both internal and external to ARL to foster rapid innovation with operational and contextual relevance. Specifically, the collection of presented projects demonstrated a coordinated strategy across the enterprise for the laser-related DE work, with indications of much greater collaboration with the Navy and Air Force. In contrast, the overall strategy for the RF-DE work was not as evident based on the topics presented. Specifically, the RF work appeared to remain fragmented and unrelated to the overall mission. For example, the operational context of the cognitive radar and the counter-UAS work was not apparent. Progress made over the course of the last two years was not evident in two projects—cognitive radar and counter-UAS.
In the penetration, armor, and adaptive protection area, ARL continues to demonstrate a strong record of achievement in fundamental and applied sciences as well as engineering. The ongoing work described in the 2017 review continues to highlight how ARL is building on its history of excellence to provide the knowledge basis for future Army needs in the area of warfighter protection. This is a critical and core competency that underlies Army capabilities. A well-developed, multifaceted research effort has been established and is being executed. Integral to this initiative is the use of classified computations to support analysis of possible mitigation concepts. ARL researchers have taken HPC to a whole new level—an impressive display of using computational sensitivity analysis of a very, very large problem with multiple length scales. The sensitivity analyses have resulted in identification of unknowns and issues, quantification of design variations, and establishing where basic information is required for higher fidelity simulations.
The disruptive energetics and propulsion technologies effort at ARL is staffed by exceptional researchers who are working to provide advancements in energetic material science. In several areas, the research is unique to ARL and leading edge. The chemical synthesis of energetic materials is a relatively new area of research at ARL. It is being conducted by a talented team of synthesis chemists and formulators. A goal of this synthesis effort is the development of high-energy, transitional new energetic materials in cost-effective and scalable quantities useful for improving long-range precision firing of rocket and gun propellants and lethality of explosives.
The experimental work and forensic analysis in the effects on targets—ballistics and blast—area is connecting threat to injury to armor design and is outstanding. The comprehensive analysis conducted on armor plates obtained from soldiers is particularly impressive. The ability to connect threat level to protective ability of armor and then make further connection to injury is of paramount importance to protecting our soldiers. ARL has made commendable efforts to consult with experts at other research laboratories and identify salient issues on which to focus. ARL now has in-house expertise in the development of a systematic methodology to quantify sensitivity, noise, and uncertainty in dynamic deformation measurements using this DIC-based experimental setup. ARL’s initiatives accessing the high-voltage in situ diagnostic radiography apparatus and the APS at ANL are providing important connections of their experimental enterprise to advanced state-of-the-art techniques, enabling elucidation of fracture initiation mechanisms.
In the flight guidance, navigation, and control area, the application of state-of-the-art modeling (vortex interactions) to Army-relevant problems may lead to advances in maneuver performance for
target engagement and intercept avoidance. Lower fidelity models (optimization) were used effectively to support prototype development. The use of unidentified waypoints to reduce trajectory uncertainty may improve probability of target acquisition in GPS-denied environments. The analysis of canard wake/tail fin interactions was excellent and effectively used CFD for that problem. The transition of technology to other government agencies such as the optimal control algorithms transitioned to DARPA was notable.
ARL’s research on sciences for lethality and protection ranges from basic research that improves its basic understanding of scientific phenomena to the generation of technology that supports battlefield injury mechanisms, human response to threats, and human protective equipment; directed energy programs; and penetration, armor, and adaptive protection developments.
The ARL basic research management team needs to acknowledge that true knowledge research has to be allowed to fail often. Acceptance of the outcome and expected for high-risk research is an iterative process for research and is totally necessary. For example, one to two orders of magnitude improvement in performance requires new approaches, and one needs to allow many of them time to fail before they succeed. ARL management needs to be tolerant of such failures.
The battlefield injury mechanisms portfolio seems well connected to outside groups, although the nature of collaborations was unclear. As one example, ARL’s focus on quantifying and translating animal data to humans appears strongly warranted, necessary, and positive. ARL is probably a leader in this aspect of the field and this could represent one area for ARL to lead the external research community.
Recommendation: ARL should pursue activities aimed at impacting and organizing the larger external community in the battlefield injury mechanisms area, taking a leadership position in sectors of the injury mechanisms science and technology area within the Department of Defense and the larger academic community, as well as studies of football and other sports head injuries.
The directed energy program focuses on RF-DE and laser-DE. ARL leadership and research teams successfully implemented some of the recommendations of the previous ARLTAB report. Specifically, the collection of presented projects demonstrated a coordinated strategy across the enterprise for the laser-related DE work, with indications of much greater collaboration with the Navy and Air Force. Internal to ARL, principal investigators from the directed energy sessions demonstrated greater awareness of work done with threat warning and countermeasures. Also, the radio frequency work needs vision and focus demonstrated with laser work in order to show continuity and measurable progress.
Recommendation: ARL should form deeper and more frequent collaborations both internal and external to ARL to foster rapid innovation with operational and contextual relevance as well as to improve the quality of the directed energy programs.
In the penetration, armor, and adaptive protection area, ARL has begun to quantify uncertainties in computational results. UQ was not part of the ARL technical initiative one or two years ago, and ARL was criticized by the ARLTAB for the lack of UQ. ARL has responded, and has demonstrated a good start, but there is a long way to go. It was unclear, however, what level of research is being conducted at ARL, or the number of people involved.
Recommendation: ARL should continue an emphasis on uncertainty quantification (UQ). ARL should purse the integration of UQ into its data-to-decision workflow that includes modeling and simulation, experimentation and design. To accelerate integration and given the complexity of its objectives, ARL scientists and engineers should leverage software and methodologies developed at other Department of Energy and Department of Defense laboratories.
In the disruptive energetics and propulsion technologies area, acquisition of state-of-the-art instrumentation is the biggest challenge in advancing diagnostics to characterize energetic materials.
Recommendation: ARL should invest in advanced diagnostics to support the energetics development and characterization projects; a state-of-the-art laser, which could provide higher energies that would transform the laser-driven flyer plate-based materials synthesis work and enable increased flyer plate velocities, which are currently limited to about 2.5 km/s; and improved modern imaging diagnostics, which could create a new way of imaging the response at suitable temporal scales. ARL should also address the challenge of expanding the field of view of the optical observations.
In the effects on target—ballistics and blast—area, ARL has made great strides in understanding the dominant physics controlling penetration mechanics. However, integration of experimental and modeling efforts for current armor materials (B4C and SiC) was not evident. Multiscale modeling of deformation and failure (e.g., fracture) in conditions relevant to ballistics presents several challenges.
Recommendation: ARL should invest in developing well-vetted material constitutive models coupling structure to function in ceramic materials. ARL should take advantage of a significant opportunity to explore fundamental deformation mechanisms in icosahedral ceramics (B6O and BAM), including amorphization, to achieve body armor weight reductions. ARL should incorporate these explorations via predictive constitutive models into computational frameworks to realize this opportunity. ARL should also address the challenge of multiscale stochastic fracture modeling.
In the flight navigation, guidance, and control area ARL leadership and staff need to continue building coordination between modelers and experimentalists to incorporate high-fidelity validation into model development and design. More effective collaborations in the flight guidance, navigation, and control technical areas would be aided by shared software and tools along with shared physical and virtual workspace.
Recommendation: ARL should continue the projectile optimization code development and extend it to include viscous effects and higher, more realistic flight speeds. ARL should use faster, more effective optimization procedures following methods developed for transonic aircraft such as adjoint optimization. ARL should also conduct research to develop coupled fluid and structural dynamics to predict realistic performance under high-G conditions.