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Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center (EMRTC) was formed in 1992 by consolidating two of NMIMT s research centers and the National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored Research Center for Energetic Materials (RCEM). The NMIMT centers, formerly the Terminal Effects Research and Analysis (TERA) Group, and the Center for Explosives Technology Research (CETR), performed both nationally and internationally recognized research, analysis, and experiments.

The breadth of expertise represented by these organizations permits a comprehensive approach to RDT&E programs. With more than 40 years of defense related research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) expertise, TERA conducted internationally recognized experimentation and analysis. Established in 1983, CETR conducted basic and applied research on energetic materials utilizing its explosives research facilities for detonation physics investigations and a laboratory/pilot-plant facility for chemical research and explosive or propellant development. RCEM, a consortium of private companies and government agencies, was organized under NSF sponsorship in 1986 to carry out mutually beneficial research with strong emphasis on safety related investigations of energetic materials.

NMIMT is an important component of the University System of the State of New Mexico. It is a non-profit institution with a faculty and facilities oriented towards science and engineering. These resources are available to EMRTC through a variety of mechanisms, including joint appointments of professors, graduate research assistant programs, and undergraduate student employees.

EMRTC has a current strength of 80 full-time employees engaged in RDT&E in many fields and in related support areas such as safety, security, acquisition, documentation, and specialized shop activities. Recent projects conducted for DoD, DOE, and private industry agencies include:sss

  • Interior, exterior, and terminal ballistics design, analysis and experimentation
  • Design, fabrication, and experimentation of hypervelocity research guns to 8 inch diameter
  • Insensitive Munitions testing including: bullet impact, fragment impact (gun launched), slow- and fast-cook-off, shaped charge jet impact, and sympathetic detonation
  • Projectile and sabot design of kinetic energy penetrators with subsequent experimentation against armor and missile targets
  • Light gas gun experiments
  • Design, fabrication, and experimentation of specialized fragment mat projectors
  • Vulnerability/survivability analysis
  • Fragment/projectile firing against aircraft, running engines and rocket motors, armor, explosives, fluids, and simulant-filled warheads
  • Hydrodynamic computer code simulation of detonation mechanisms
  • Warhead design
  • Sled design and sled track operation to give precision attack against targets
  • Armor/Anti-Armor testing
  • Explosives effects on magazines and other structures
  • Shock tube tests to 50 psi
  • Fuze evaluation
  • Detonation physics experimentation
  • Explosives loading
  • High speed photography
  • Diagnostic instrumentation including: flash x-ray, transient-time, stress-strain, and Doppler radar
  • Specialized machine shop capabilities for projectile, sabot, fragment projector, and other ordnance related fabrication

    General Description

    The EMRTC 40-square-mile field testing laboratory is located in the mountains adjacent to the NMIMT campus. Access is provided to the laboratory by all-weather roads, with the most remote site located only 25 minutes from the main offices. The semi-arid climate of the Southwestern desert allows year-round use of the facility, with very few weather delays. The mountainous terrain provides natural backstops allowing various explosives experiments and gun firings to be conducted within the confines of the facility. Many of the experiments could not be performed in a similarly sized flat area due to safety constraints. The field laboratory contains over 30 separate test sites, gun ranges, and research facilities and has the capability to store over 500,000 pounds of explosives. The map on the following page shows the location of these facilities within the field laboratory.

    The EMRTC field laboratory contains a number of gun ranges enabling firings from point-blank to 5,000 meter (16,400 foot) standoffs. Regular environmental inspections are conducted by EMRTC staff and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED). EMRTC conducts a state-approved dosage monitoring program for all employees with access to these ranges and for all employees who have access to ranges where flash x-ray systems are in use.

    Several of the test ranges are set up to support various large- and small-scale explosive experiments, fragment projector experiments, warhead characterization tests, large and small caliber gun firings such as fuze evaluations, insensitive munitions (IM) testing, target response to single and multiple impacts, vulnerability assessment experiments, fragment or debris distribution studies, tactical rocket firings, vehicle and running engine experiments, and other specialized experiments. These test sites are located in terrain-sheltered areas that limit fragment dispersion, blast effects, noise, and provide security for proprietary or classified experiments. All test sites are equipped with proximate field facilities with adequate instrumentation, bunkers, personnel safety shelters, and electrical power as may be required to support field testing.

    West Valley

    Large explosive weight experiments, or experiments requiring large recovery pads, are conducted at the West Valley Pad. This area is approved for net explosive weight to 2,000 pounds. It features a 300 by 600 meter (1,000 by 2000 feet) flat, approximately oval pad that can be graded and compacted to accommodate instrumentation and which is useful for recovery of warhead fragments or debris. West Valley is regularly used for TNT equivalency testing, quantity-distance evaluations, and industrial interline distance evaluations. Different types of experiments have been performed at this site, including Ammo Quickload sympathetic detonation tests; evaluation tests of full-scale, fully loaded running propellant processing machinery exposed to the threat of fire; 1/10-scale NATO Aircraft Shelter tests; frangible roof magazine tests; 1/4-scale N-Cel tests; and Conex container tests. Other programs have included gun-fire testing, destructive testing of models, fragment debris distribution studies, tactical rocket firings, tactical vehicle tests and anti-terrorist/First Responder training. The area is sheltered within canyons that confine test hazards and blast effects and provide considerable security from unauthorized entry or observation of tests.

    The West Valley Flag site is a smaller area that is extremely useful for fragment and bullet impact experiments against rocket motors and warheads, smaller scale sympathetic detonation testing, and vulnerability assessment testing. It has recently been used for highly instrumented vulnerability testing against aircraft components, including aircraft with live munitions on board.

    3000-Meter Gun Ranges

    Two 3000-meter gun ranges support Lot Acceptance Tests (LAT) of gun-launched projectiles up to and including 155 mm projectiles. Impact areas are available for target-impact-dispersion (TID) testing of both High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) and Kinetic Energy non-DU projectiles. Both ranges provide an unobstructed gun-to-target line-of-site firing capability at any distance between 0 and 100 meters inclusive, and at 500, 1000, 1500, 2000, 2500, and 3000 meters. Instrumentation includes orthogonal flash x-ray capability for muzzle x-ray diagnostics, Doppler radar, AVL ballistic computer systems, pressure-time transducers, sky screens, a digitized weather monitoring system, accelerometers, strain gauges, thermocouples, and pressure gauges. Photographic equipment includes high-speed cameras (10,000 f/s), Image Motion Compensation (IMC) Photography (high-speed 16 and 35 millimeter format cameras) and full range video capability. The ranges are computer equipped for data compilation/correlation and temperature conditioning units are available for conditioning cartridges from -46oC to 63oC.

    1000-Meter Gun Range

    The 1000 Meter West Range was constructed for state-of-the-art investigations of the interior, exterior, and terminal ballistics effects of prototype projectiles and penetrators. The range is equipped with both small and large caliber gun systems, including specialized research guns. Fixed and movable mounts are located at the range. The range provides an unobstructed gun-to-target line-of-site firing capability at any distance between 0 and 100 meters inclusive, and at 50 meter intervals from 100 to 500 meters. Range instrumentation includes both fixed and portable orthogonal flash x-ray systems (150 kV to 1 MeV), framing and IMC high-speed cameras, sky screens, transient time pressure measurement capabilities, both in the guns and for overpressures, and other necessary data acquisition equipment. Doppler radar is used for both inbore measurements and characterization of the exterior ballistics performance of projectiles. The radar can measure multiple rounds in rate of fire testing and is used for tracking both projectiles and rocket motors in flight.

    1200-Meter Gun Range

    The 1200-meter range was constructed to support armor and anti-armor tests and can accommodate missile, rocket, and small and large caliber gun firings at ranges up to 1200 meters. The range is equipped with a loading facility, storage magazine, and small arms indoor range. The range's most unique feature is the large underground bunker, located adjacent to the impact area, which offers protection to personnel and instrumentation during testing. Buried instrumentation lines from the bunker to the impact area permit rapid setup and turnaround times between tests. This facility has and can be equipped with a variety of instrumentation systems such as flash x-ray, high-speed cameras, sky screens, pressure measurements, and Doppler radars. Provisions for full-flight surveillance are available via buried instrumentation/trigger/power lines and "pull boxes" at 200 meter intervals from the personnel/instrumentation bunker.

    Tank All-Terrain Test Track

    The tank track, which was designed and built in support of the Joint Live Fire testing program, is an unpaved circuit with a succession of obstacles and barriers. Target(s) (all types of tracked vehicles) are driven on the track after being subjected to precision impact from shaped charges, fragments, projectiles, and the like. Likely impact areas include the tracks, idlers, or drive wheels. A second track is useful for a variety of tests, including the functional mobility degradation of weapons systems damaged by enemy fire.

    Liquid Rocket Engine Test Facility

    EMRTC’s Liquid Rocket Engine Test Facility is set up with a LOX/Hydrocarbon Fuel test stand. The test site now features a 5,000 lb biaxial thrust mount and a 32 channel data acquisition system which currently records pressure, temperature, flow, and thrust data. A 3,000 gallon LOX dewar and 60,000 SCF GN2 storage tank support testing. Future plans include a 20,000 lb (nearly vertical) thrust mount for both development and qualification testing.

    Main Pad Facility

    The Main Pad can accommodate experiments involving up to 500 pound explosive weights and gun-fired projectiles at ranges up to 100 meters. The area has been used for horizontal firings of guns or fragments against a variety of targets.

    Cliff Site

    The Cliff Site test facility permits drop type experiments with heights to 61 meters (200 feet). This facility is also used for vulnerability experiments where it is important that the shot be directed either upward or downward into the target. Simulated mortar and artillery impact tests have been conducted to determine fragment lethality and fire-start capability. IR signature on vehicles have also been conducted.

    Phalanx Range

    The Phalanx site is an isolated area with steep walled terrain that is ideal for fragment and bullet impact firings against large, heavy case warheads where fragment dispersion is a safety hazard. This site was specially designed to accommodate multi-gun experiments required for Phalanx weapon system lethality testing. A Susan Test range is also located at this site for explosive sensitivity tests.

    MOUT Facility

    In support of testing for the Tri-Service Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) Program, EMRTC developed an eighteen room site to accommodate testing of munitions up to 203 millimeter (8-inch) projectiles at standoffs up to 250 meters (800 feet). The facilities were constructed with reinforced concrete footing and wing walls.

    Target walls, which are customarily triple brick or reinforced concrete, can readily be set in place. The site is configured for external and in-room data acquisition for both thermal and blast affects, high-speed cameras and multi-channel flash x-rays are available for additional test data collection. The test area is highly versatile with firing sites allowing up to 60 degrees of obliquity. Testing against standard sandbag and wood bunkers can also be easily accommodated. In addition to artillery firing, recent testing has been directed towards evaluation of a number of shoulder-launched munitions.

    HOB Site

    The Height of Burst (HOB) site is used for specialized explosive detonation and shock wave propagation, warhead, and powder gun experiments. With a level concrete bed with imbedded instrumentation, it has been used primarily for highly instrumented experiments of suspended explosive charges to investigate shock wave propagation. While this range was originally built to support the Defense Nuclear Agency s nuclear blast simulation tests conducted at White Sands Missile Range, many other experimental programs dealing with shock wave propagation have been conducted here. One recent experimental program required firing 450 kilogram (1000 pound) suspended spherical charges of liquid and slurry explosives to obtain blast overpressure measurements versus radius and time that were then used to verify a hydrodynamic computer code prediction.

    HPM Site

    The High Performance Magazine (HPM) site has been developed for scaled structure experiments requiring a large recovery area. It has been used for NATO testing of one-quarter scale aircraft shelters and is used for the evaluation of magazine structure vulnerability to munitions. This site has also been used for the study of non-ideal explosive events against various structure components. Large detonation overpressure experiments have been conducted involving up to 9,060 kgs (20,000 lbs.) of explosives.

    Countermine Test Facility

    The Countermine Test Facility was developed to test and evaluate technologies for detection of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines in an arid environment. It consists of multiple oval flat tracks and support facilities. Inert or live mines can be located on these tracks. Remote-operated robotic detection devices can be used for operations involving live mines. Natural terrain live mine fields have also been developed as test beds to evaluate detection devices.

    Sled Track

    The Sled Track is a 300-meter (1,000-foot) monorail track. This track is used for dynamic testing of warheads, penetrators, and shape charges, and provides a means to dynamically provide precision impact control for target penetration studies, development of hard target penetrators, and proof-of-concept testing. EMRTC has "in-house" capabilities to design, fabricate, and analyze the rocket sleds, as well as predict their velocities. Currently, 2.75-inch and HVAR motors are available for use at no charge to the government. Velocities up to 1,800 ft/sec can be achieved depending upon payload size. Instrumentation includes x-ray, IMC and high-speed 16 and 35 millimeter format cameras, accelerometers, strain gauges, thermocouples, video, and pressure gauges.

    Susan Range

    The Susan Test has become the military and industry standard for evaluating the sensitivity of explosives to crushing impacts. EMRTC has constructed a permanent Susan Test Range for gun-launch qualification testing of explosives. The range facility includes a permanently placed 3.2-inch smooth bore gun, four free-field incident-shock pressure probes capable of sustaining pressures to 100 psi, underground instrumentation cabling, a fully instrumented personnel bunker, and 10,000 full frames per second high speed camera photographic coverage. The facility is also equipped with an IBM compatible computer and digitizer to permit on-site data reduction immediately upon conclusion of a test.

    Cook-Off Site

    The Cook-Off Site was recently constructed for dedicated use in insensitive munitions (IM) test programs. Here, both fast and slow cook-off experiments on large and small items can be conducted according to MIL-STD-2105B. This site is set up to allow remote operation and monitoring of the instrumentation and data recording equipment, which allows for efficient experimentation. Other IM experiments, including bullet and fragment impact, shaped charge jet, jet spall impact, and sympathetic detonation experiments, are also conducted at various EMRTC facilities. Items that are too large to be tested at the site can be tested at several other EMRTC facilities.

    Shock Tube

    EMRTC has a 6-meter diameter by 42-meter (20-foot diameter by 140-foot) long shock tube that enables simulation of the blast and shock effects of a nuclear blast using conventional explosives. The tube provides overpressure pulses up to 50 psi for periods up to 50 ms and is equipped with multiple camera and instrumentation ports.

    Big Eagle

    The Big Eagle facility includes a buried personnel/instrumentation bunker located at the edge of the test pad with the ability to accommodate firings up to 200 kilograms (450 pounds) high explosive charge weights. The facility is extensively instrumented with transient digitizers, a 1.4 million frames per second Beckman/Whitley 192 framing camera, a Cordin 10-032 streak camera, and an image intensifier camera.

    Little Eagle

    The Little Eagle firing site consists of an enclosed concrete firing chamber with adjacent flash x-ray and an optical and electronic recording lab for experiments of explosive charges up to 5 kilograms (11 pounds). The facility is fully instrumented with a Beckman/Whitley 189 framing camera, a streak camera, a three channel 300 Kv flash x-ray unit and eight channels of analog-digital/digital-analog controllers.

    Torres Lab

    The Torres Lab is specifically designed to formulate, mix, and cast a variety of explosive types. Two wet labs are available for chemical and physical analysis of test explosives and initial, small-scale formulations. Drop weight impact, friction, electrostatic discharge sensitivity, and Henkin time-to-explosion safety experiments can be performed at this site. UN DOT testing is routinely conducted to evaluation the sensitivity of explosive formulations.

    Chemistry Lab

    Located adjacent to the EMRTC office complex is the Chemistry Laboatory. A variety of chemical experiments using equipment including a differential scanning calorimeter, an FT-nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, gas chromatograph, infrared and mass spectrophotometer, and an atomic absorption spectrometer/ inductively-coupled plasma emission spectrometer are conducted in support of various Research and Development programs at EMRTC.

    Ordnance Preparation Facility

    The Ordnance Preparation Facility is a double bay building designed specifically for ordnance operations. This facility is equipped to handle such operations as explosive loading for research and development munitions, rocket motor preparation, assembly of explosive components, remote disassembly of ordnance items, and up/down loading and priming/depriming of fixed ammunition. Additional support systems include electronic and mechanical balances for precise measuring of small and large quantities of materials or items, air-operated special tools, and video equipment for viewing and recording operations from a remote location. The building meets all safety code requirements, including those for grounding, conductive floors, explosion-proof fixtures, and lightning protection. It is fully equipped with an explosive residue catch vat; materials handling equipment, including a monorail with hoist; and tool-cleaning facilities.

    Gun Systems

    One of our significant strengths at EMRTC is the existing inventory of gun systems and the ability to modify these systems to meet ballistic experimental requirements Various standard US Army and Navy gun systems from 5.56 NATO to 8-inch Howitzer are located on-site. EMRTC has also designed and modified a large range of modified gun systems that are used to fire specialized and prototype projectiles and fragments at more than 2 kilometers per second (6,500 feet per second). A modified 120 millimeter M58 is currently being used to fire conceptual Patriot PAC-3 fragments.

    Two-Stage Light-Gas Gun Facility

    A two-stage light gas gun with a 1.5-inch diameter launch tube can be used to accelerate projectiles at velocities greater than 7 kilometers per second (23,000 feet per second). This facility is unique in that projectiles and fragments can be fired at explosive-filled targets and bare charges. A frangible flight tube extension, located outside the building, permits explosive testing against targets with up to 100 pounds of explosive material. The gun is equipped with a sabot separation/gas expansion chamber and a non-reactive target chamber. Instrumentation includes multiple port orthogonal flash x-ray, high speed IMC photographic coverage, electronic timers, strain gage, accelerometer, and piezoelectric pressure transducers.

    Powder Guns

    Standard Guns

    • 5.56 NATO
    • 7.62 NATO
    • 20mm M103
    • 25mm GAU-12
    • 30mm GAU-8
    • 40mm L-60, L-70
    • 57mm M-2
    • 3.2-inch smooth bore
    • 3-inch 50 caliber
    • 90mm rifled bore M-41
    • 105mm smooth and rifled bore M-68
    • 120mm smooth and rifled bore M256, XM25, and M-58
    • 155mm M2 Howitzer
    • 8-inch smooth bore


    Specialized Research Guns

    Each of the specialized research guns listed below were designed and fabricated in-house, and can achieve velocities greater than 2 km/sec.

    • 20mm M103 chamber in .50 and .60 cal, and 20mm barrels
    • 30mm GAU-8 smooth bore
    • 40mm L-70 x 88 caliber smooth bore
    • 57mm M-2A x 79 caliber smooth bore
    • 90mm M-41 x 82 caliber smooth bore
    • 128mm M-58 x 76 caliber smooth bore


    Computer Analysis Facilities and Capabilities

    EMRTC uses a wide array of state-of-the-art computer software to predict and analyze all types of reactions, structures, and energetic events, as well as computer drafting software to support engineering drawings, and data reduction software to support experimental research. Several software packages are used to predict detonation properties of explosives of known composition; these include BKW, TIGER, ISP, and MESA. Other packages such as EXPLO and TOPAZ are used to model heat flow and thermal hazards. Software packages for interior ballistics, propellant charge design, and burn rate modeling include IBHVG2.5, NOVA, and BLAKE. The COSMOS-M software is used to model structural response to temperature, heat, and force loading. COSMOS-M is routinely used to predict the dynamic response of projectile and sabot packages using the calculated input from IBHVG2.5.

    The exterior ballistics of projectiles and sabots are analyzed using the AVCO sabot separation code and the PRODAS package. PRODAS is used to examine various properties, including aerodynamic coefficients, stability analysis, firing tables, trajectory, and mass moment predictions. EMRTC has also developed a radically new three-dimensional (3D) software package called MAGI. MAGI is a Lagrangian Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamic (SPH) code that enables modelling of complex 3-D problems on workstations in run-times of a few hours and allows freedom from reliance on expensive super computers.

    Other Facilities

    Located within New Mexico s Rio Grande Research Corridor, EMRTC is in an ideal position to interact with scientists and engineers at five nearby federal research facilities: Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, the Phillips Laboratory at Kirtland AFB, the Army s White Sands Missile Range, and NASA s White Sands Facility. EMRTC researchers are engaged in a number of joint research projects with the laboratories and periodically consult with lab scientists and engineers on a variety of technical matters.

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