Those familiar with so-called “green-tipped” ammunition know that the euphemism typically denotes M855, 5.56 ammunition that has a steel tip. Now the Army is hoping to spin green in a more environmentally friendly direction. A new request has been filed for biodegradable ammunition impregnated with seeds that will actually grow plants out of what is now mostly waste.
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Check your URL. This isn’t The Onion. This story, as far fetched as it may seem, isn’t fake news. Fox News broke the story.
The Department of Defense (DoD) has requested a solution to the environmental legacy it is leaving with all of the ammunition spent training soldiers.
As Fox reports, “the request was made via the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.” What is it the DoD is looking for? “Biodegradable training ammunition loaded with specialized seeds to grow environmentally beneficial plants that eliminate ammunition debris and contaminants.”
Instead of leaving small bits of lead, steel, and copper in the berms at shooting ranges, the Army would like to leave a clean environmental footprint.
And it isn’t just the 5.56 rounds used in the M4 rifles. They’re also hoping for “low velocity 40mm grenades; 60mm, 81mm, and 120mm mortars; shoulder launched munitions; 120mm tank rounds; and 155mm artillery rounds.”
And once the projectiles are accounted for, the DoD hopes to tackle the more voluminous problem created by the spent brass that accumulates on the firing line.
“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,” Fox reports, “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.”
The projectiles themselves would likely be based on biodegradable plastics. Polymer bullets are hardly new. Plastic training rounds have been in use for years in Europe–the biggest challenge will be creating a biodegrade plastic with enough of a shelf life to get them into service.
After that, they’ll have to tailor those rounds to the training needs of the units fielding them. And then they’ll have to invest in lawn care at their ranges.
“Phase one involves demonstrating a production process for the biodegradable materials for 40mm-120mm training rounds. Phase two involves proving the fabrication process and passing government ballistic tests,” Fox reports. “Finally, phase three will involve working with ammunition contractors to turn the tech into a supply of training ammunition.”
What makes the grass grow green? Environmentally friendly seeds and biodegradable ammunition casings, according to the U.S. Army