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Novel Materials for Kinetic Energy Penetrators



The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals, their country of origin, and what tasks each would accomplish in the statement of work in accordance with section 5.4.c.(8) of the solicitation.


OBJECTIVE: Identify and produce a low-cost material that matches or exceeds the performance of depleted uranium (DU) in kinetic energy (KE) penetrator applications.


DESCRIPTION: Beginning in the 1970s, depleted uranium was selected as a replacement for tungsten alloys used in a variety of armor-piercing projectiles. DU matches the density of tungsten with the added benefit of “selfsharpening” through adiabatic shear banding. DU penetrators also exhibit pyrophoric effects as they impact a target and partially aerosolize, enhancing lethality and improving anti-materiel efficacy. In addition to enhanced performance, the manufacturability, low material cost, and abundant supply of DU have made it a practical choice for KE penetrators.

Limited opposition to the use of DU exists in some circles based on the idea that, as a heavy metal, depleted uranium deposited on the battlefield might represent a serious persistent health or environmental hazard. Because of this opposition, the Army has been exploring alternative materials for KE penetrator applications.

This SBIR topic requests a fully dense KE penetrator material that matches or exceeds the ballistic performance of depleted uranium.

The cost of the proposed material should not exceed 200 percent of the cost of military grade tungsten heavy alloy purchased in production quantities. The Army may consider materials and processes that exceed this cost ceiling if they provide exceptional KE penetrator performance or if they offset the material cost through reductions in other life-cycle costs.

The material proposed should be less toxic than conventional tungsten nickel cobalt heavy alloys.


PHASE I: The offeror should use a multiscale materials modeling approach, such as Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME), to develop material options to replace depleted uranium in the kinetic energy penetrator application.

The materials developed shall meet or exceed the terminal ballistic performance of current depleted uranium alloys. The result of the modeling effort shall be the complete description of the materials, including, but not limited to, composition, crystal structure, phase identification, preferred microstructural features, and expected mechanical and physical properties.

The offeror shall demonstrate the synthesis and fabrication of the most promising candidate material composition. The offeror will deliver 12 identical samples of the material in kinetic energy penetrator form (5.6 mm diameter and 16.7 mm in length).

Create a scale-up strategy for material production, and perform a cost analysis describing the anticipated cost of fullscale production.


PHASE II: The offeror shall build on the insight provided by the Phase I materials modeling effort and the results of the Phase I ballistic characterization to optimize the candidate composition. The offeror shall scale up the synthesis and processing of the down-selected material sufficiently to produce a single batch of material to fabricate 25 identical penetrator rods (65g mass, 15:1 length to diameter ratio, right circular cylinder, dimensional tolerances shall be provided).

The offeror shall perform ballistic characterization with these penetrators against standard 3" rolled homogenous armor (RHA) at zero degrees obliquity or similar tests, comparing these results against conventional tungsten penetrators.

The offeror shall also fabricate from a single batch of material an additional 25 identical copies of these penetrators for delivery to the Army for independent characterization. Tests should be structured to enable comparison with past DU test data.

Further optimize the composition and material properties based on Phase II ballistic test results to meet launch survivability and terminal ballistics requirements.

Deliver 25 prototypes (half-inch diameter, eight-inch length) to the Army for testing.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Scale up material for tests in 120mm tank rounds. Private sector applications include the use of projectiles to replace high explosive charges for cutting hard surfaces in mining, drilling, excavation, demolitions, and salvage operations.


KEYWORDS: Amorphous metals, Kinetic Energy Penetrators, depleted uranium, nanostructured materials, alloy nanopowders, advanced materials, tungsten.

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