You are on page 1of 4

by CPT Lauris T.

Jones Ill

With a trace of smoke, then a fiery plume, eight tons of Pershin6 I1 missile lif'fs o f f .
The Army's largest tactical missile, the Pershing 11, is propelled by two solid-fuel rocket motors. The firststage motor burns one minute and detaches. The second-stage motor ignites for 45 seconds, then falls away while the missile orients itself and starts terminal guidance to impact. While the motors' job takes only a tenth of the flight, their development took 3% years. And each motor requires six months to manufacture. Production begins with the missile's outer skin, which must withstand internal pressures of 1,350 psi in flight. The case is formed around a metal cylinder, called a mandrel, made of 28 cast-iron pieces. Sections of molded rubber are fitted over the mandrel. The assembly is wound with fiberglass and heated in a large convection oven, tightly binding the rubber beneath the shrinking fiberglass. The rubber insulates the outer Kevlar shell from burning fuel. The fiberglass is removed, and machines wrap 12 bands of DuPont Aramid fiber around the mandrel. Separate resin-fiber mats and wafers reinforce areas under heavy pressure or external loads. Skirts, wound on each end, provide flat surfaces to connect the missile stages. A giant microwave oven cures the case, and the mandrel is removed from the Kevlar case. Inspectors, who monitor each step, now test the case, placing it in a water-filled bay and raising the internal pressure to 1,350 psi. Any weak windings separate, and deficient cases explode under pressure they would sustain during flight. After testing, aluminum rings, which connect the missile stages, are riveted to the skirts. A water knife cuts holes in the front skirt and dome for thrust-reversal stacks. The stream of water a t 55,000 psi easily cuts the Kevlar, while steel plates prevent the knife from slicing certain areas. Sensitive areas on the dome are cut with power saws; one small hole may take several hours. These hold the thrust-reversal adapters, which allow the motor to vent pressurized gases after detaching itself. The case is presswe-tested again before installing thrust-reversal stacks. This test uses a nitrogen-helium mixture; a n electronic "sniffing" device detects small leaks. The cases are cleaned, and quality-control personnel inspect them. Cases seldom pass inspection the first time. Once discrepancies are corrected and the case

Pershlng 11 airborne under first-stage propulsion.


reinspected, it is sent to prime contractor and government representatives for acceptance, then shipped to another plant for loading and finishing. There, a stress relief flap is spliced to the insulator inside the rear of the case. This acts as a flexible barrier between the fuel and the dome. On the forward dome, insulation is bonded over the seams where thrust reversal adapters are put in the case, and on the internal surface of the adapters. This prevents leakage of pressurized gases during ignition. The motor is pressurized and non-destructive testing verifies the bonds. Examinations by X-ray detect areas where voids may affect adhesion or cause leaks. Another insulator is applied to the outer surface of the aft dome. Cork sheets keep high-temperature gases emitted during flight from scorching the dome. As the cork is charred, its insulation quality improves. A destruct mounting ring on the front dome allows the attachment of a shaped charge. On test flights the range safety officer can detonate it to destroy the motor and stop the flight. A degreasing process removes contaminants from the case, and three layers of primer are applied. A barrier coat prevents solvents from moving between the rubber insulator and the fuel. The final coat, the liner, chemically bonds to the fuel when it is introduced. After the liner dries, the case goes to the casting facility. A remote-control, 600-gallon mixer prepares fuel in a hardened explosives bunker. Water outside the mixing bowl keeps ingredients a t a constant temperature, while an inert blanket of nitrogen in the bowl deters ignition and provides a .moisture-free atmosphere. The last ingredient sets the mix to the desired consistency. The fuel must be cast within 14 hours of mixing. In the casting area, Teflon-coated, core-casting tooling attached to the case ensures a vacuum-tight flow of fuel. An elevator lowers each case, front end up, into the castlcure pit. A dome-shaped cover seals the motor into its pit, and a preliminary vacuum ensures a dry inner surface before casting. The mixing bowls are fixed on the casting pit covers. A vacuum, measuring less than half of atmospheric pressure, draws fuel from the mixing bowl into the case. A plate between bowl and case cuts a t the flowing propellant so any trapped gas is released. Loaded cases remain under pressure in the pits for five days. Hot air and water are used to keep the temperature constant. After curing, the case is taken to a cooling area for two days. Thermal contraction eases removal of the core-casting tooling. Once again, the case undergoes non-destructive testing. Through radiography, more than 90 views of each case are examined for voids and high-density areas in the grain. A remote-controlled electric boring mill cuts a groove in the forward end of the grain. This allows thermal expansion or contraction of the fuel in the case. Otherwise, a cold motor might pull loose or crack during transit. The motor's center bore and aft section receive finishing during which fuel cuttings are continuously vacuumed from the bore. Automatic systems stand ready to flood the motor, and the building if necessary, a t any sign of

The three-ton metal mandrel is assembled in two 14-piece sec. tions. then ioined.



Installing the attach rings that connect missile stages.


First-stage motor is ready for final visual inspection.

The propellant is mixed in a giant bowl over a casting and curing pit.

ignition. After machining and inspection, closures are installed in the aft and forward ports to bar entry of moisture and debris. The case then goes to finishing. The finishing building is where the loaded case finally becomes a rocket motor. The case is measured for weight and center of gravity. Quality control and prime contractor personnel inspect the motor for loose propellant, irregularities in formulation and foreign material. Conduit retainer seal assemblies, which hold the electrical conduit cover to the missile's skin, are applied along the length of accepted cases. First-stage cases receive case vent smooth areas and standoffs a t 80 and 260 degree positions. A shell holding two linear-shaped charges is sealed to the motor surface. Once the motor detaches during the single-stage flight, the charges are set off, slicing the motor open and destroying it. The ordnance manifold system, part of the thrust reversal system, is installed on the second stage, except in a single-stage configuration. Tests and quality control inspections verify that components meet specifications. Both stages require foam wedges in the area where the skirt joins the forward dome. The wedge keeps water out of the groove, which could freeze, overstressing the joints.

Any aluminum surfaces on the case that require exacting tolerances or must maintain surface conductivity are masked before the rest is painted. As the motor is rotated, its surface is primed. A coat of ElectroDag, a conductive paint, provides a path for electrostatic discharge to ground from any point on the motor. Conductive silicon fills gaps between painted and metal surfaces. Another layer of primer is added, followed by two coats of subdued forest green. Motor markings and insignia are painted last. The exhaust nozzle, which controls pitch and yaw motions during flight, is installed next. The assembly is hoisted to a stand, cleaned, checked and the O-ring installed. The aft port bearing ring is also examined. Scratches or distortion could cause exhaust leaks and motor failure. Once the nozzle is installed and inspected, a closure is fitted in the nozzle throat. Next, the igniter is installed on the first-stage's front dome. Part extends into the grain bore; the safe and arm well extends from the port. An in-linelout-of-line barrier mounted in the well prevents accidental ignition; energy reaches the igniter only if internal ports are aligned by code, making a passage. The second stage gets arm and fire signals from the missile's on-board computer.

Second-stage static test firing held at Tekoi Test Range, Skull Valley, UT.
Photographs courtesy o f Hercules Aerospace Co., Magna, UT.


After quality-control, prime contractor and government representatives observe another pressure test, the thrust reversal ports are covered and motor "clean-up" finished. Metal and painted surfaces are touched up. The facility foreman and quality control people reinspect the motor and its records. The records must document every procedure, weight, measure and inspection of motor production. Prime contractor and government representatives hold a final inspection, authenticate the motor's records and forward them through the company, contractor and government for final review. A limited number of motors remain with the manufac-

turer for instrumentation and static fire. Most are shipped to Pueblo Depot Activity, CO, where additional components are installed, and the motors added to the Army inventory. rn

CPT Lauris T. Jones ZZZ is assigned to the Pershing I1 Program Office, MICOM. When this story was written, he was participating in the Training W i t h Industry Program w i t h the Hercules Aerospace Co. H e holds a BS degree in pre-law from Auburn University, AL, and has completed the Materiel Acquisition Management and A r m y Logistics Management courses.



Privates Take Charge

Top soldiers of Charlie Company, 55th Maintenance Battalion, Heilbronn, West Gemany, were permitted to take charge of their unit's leadership positions from the company commander on down to section NCOICs. PFC Christopher Abston took charge of the company, while PFC Renard Frazier became the first sergeant. The company commander began his day leading a 6 a.m. physical training formation. He then ensured that each section had a subject and an instructor ready to train the soldiers that afternoon. And, typically, much paperwork awaited him. The first sergeant learned the hassles of posting a duty roster. He also checked on the sections and the motor pool.-Cynthia Banner, Heilbronn Eagle PFC Christopher Abston reviews paperwork as CPT Patricia McQuistion assists him during a leadership swap day.