The U.S. Army recently placed a request through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, seeking biodegradable seed-embedding training ammo. According to the description in the request, the U.S. Army is looking to replace “low-velocity 40mm grenades; 60mm, 81mm, and 120mm mortars; shoulder-launched munitions; 120mm tank rounds; and 155mm artillery rounds.”

Fox News stated the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) will assist with allocating the seeds.

Sourcing the seeds for use in this new ammunition won’t be a problem as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) already bioengineered them so as not to germinate for several months, allowing time for the materials containing them to sufficiently biodegrade. The seeds can then take up any remaining contaminants as they grow, further reducing harm to the environment.- Fox News

The request specifically asks the contractor to provide the seed-embedding ammo in three phases of the SBIR process.

PHASE I: In Phase I the contractor develops a process to produce biodegradable composites with remediation seeds that can be used to manufacture 40mm-120mm training rounds. These training rounds shall meet all the performance requirements of existing training rounds. The contractor should also explore avenues to produce biodegradable composites with remediation seeds for use in products outside the defense sector.

PHASE II: In Phase II the contractor will prove the fabrication process and manufacture prototypes that demonstrate the process is ready for industrial use. Provide a sufficient number of prototypes for the government to perform ballistic tests.

PHASE III: Contractor will coordinate with PEO Ammunition and ammunition prime contractors to establish a transition path for the SBIR technology. – SBIR Request

Never pick up brass again? Your tax dollars at work

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It is an interesting concept, using biodegradable plastics for training ammunition. However, other than the three phases, the timeline seems very vague. Based on their references, it seems like similar technology has been around for several years, but not in this application.

Editorial cartoon courtesy of Robert L. Lang