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Picatinny engineers granted patent for Indirect Fire Munition Non-Lethal Cargo Carrier Mortar

By Lauren Poindexter

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Picatinny Arsenal engineers Michael Markowitch, Francesco Rizzi, Bryan Drake, Jason Surmanek, Samuel Perez, Raymond Trohanowsky, Wooje Na, and Piotr Czerechowski were granted US Patent No 9528802 B1 for Indirect Fire Munition (IDFM) Non-Lethal Cargo Carrier Mortar on Dec. 27, 2016.

The IDFM Non-Lethal Cargo Carrier Mortar deploys non-lethal sub-munitions to an intended target. The cargo carrier mortar includes a deceleration system which allows for the discarded mortar to descend at a controlled non-free fall velocity thereby minimizing the risk of injury or collateral damage from the mortar. The cargo carrier mortar is adapted to be compatible with existing standard military equipment such as standard mortar caliber sizes.

"Currently the armed forces are unable to deliver non-lethal effects at extended ranges. Our goal was to develop a mortar that would be capable of delivering a non-lethal payload at ranges typical of mortar systems. In order to achieve this a method of controlling the fall of the major metal parts sub-assemblies needed to be designed," said Markowitch.

"We took our inspiration for our design from the family of Illumination Mortars. They use parachutes attached to an Illumination Candle to slow its descent and illuminate an area. The team determined that similar designs could be used to control the descent of the metal parts," said Markowitch.

Markowitch also explains that by utilizing previously fielded parts and designs and repackaging them in a novel way they were able to greatly reduce the amount of development time needed to begin ballistically testing ammunition.

"In addition, the Integrated Product Team (IPT) consisted of almost entirely US government engineers allowing the IPT to rapidly respond to design issues and changes without delaying the program with contracting issues," said Markowitch. "ARDEC engineers from the METC Mortars Division and Aeroballistics Division were instrumental in developing the design concepts and prototypes for testing as well as overcoming the engineering obstacles inherent to the system."

The program started from the desire of the USMC Combat Development and Integration, Escalation of Force Branch to have a non-lethal mortar round. Through funding from the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate in Quantico, VA the team was able to develop a working prototype concept. The USMC plans to continue to support development of the cartridge with an intent on fielding.

To date the program has successfully conducted two demonstrations showing the rounds capability. Additionally, the team has another planned demonstration at the Non-Lethal Weapons Symposium at Creech Air Force Base in April 2017. Additional ballistic testing and development is planned through FY20.

In addition to the patent, Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division, with modeling and simulation support from the USAF Human Effects Center of Excellence (HECOE), has been working on developing a flashbang payload for the cartridge. Lead scientist Chris Milby has led a team to develop a novel flashbang composition that is intended to disperse combatants and non-combatants from a target area. Each cartridge has 14 flashbangs are designed to fall to the ground and function after a preset delay ensuring maximum effectiveness.