Development of Blast-Barge Technology for Underwater Munitions Demolition

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ESTCP 2017 Project of the Year Award for Munitions Response

Disposal of underwater unexploded ordnance (UXO) encountered during a munitions response is commonly conducted using two primary methods: tow-to-shore and blow in place. Tow-to-shore operations require transporting UXO from an underwater site to the shore for disposal. This process requires evacuating the surrounding area, and endangers DoD personnel who handle and transport UXO. In many places, shore access is not available. Blow in place or in situ remediation of underwater UXO present challenges as well. Blow in place operations expose the marine environment to potential damage, and are not allowed at many remediation sites.

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Under this year’s ESTCP Project of the Year, Timothy W. Shelton with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) and his team developed and demonstrated a mobile blast barge system to provide improved remediation options to DoD personnel. The system consists of a blast box that can withstand the blast environment created during UXO disposal fitted to a standard barge. The blast barge system can be constructed using commercially available parts, is reusable, and is easily transportable to various locations.

Mr. Shelton and his team used a combination of numerical modeling, scaled simulations, subscale experiments, and field demonstrations to mature a robust platform. Fifty-five experiments were conducted from 2016 to 2017, during which time the blast box has not shown any signs of damage, and scaled explosive weights used during testing have far exceeded anticipated prototype weapon sizes.

In addition to developing a robust platform, hydrophone data has been collected from every explosive event during experiments and testing. Data collected from these events will be used to quantify sound wave propagation from an explosive detonation occurring above the water, and determine the potential impacts of these disruptions to marine mammals. Data collected will also help researchers determine the path for continued development of the Blast Barge technology. These data sets will be used to validate numerical models that will predict sound impacts beyond the limits of the explosive masses tested during the demonstrations.

For this important work, Timothy Shelton and his project team received the 2017 ESTCP Project of the Year Award for Munitions Response.

Project Team

  • Timothy W. Shelton – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research & Development Center
  • Dr. Andreas O. Frank – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, ERDC
  • Dr. Christa M. Woodley – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, ERDC
  • Robert H. Presley – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, ERDC
  • Dennis R. Cecil – Naval Surface Warfare Center – Crane Division
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Photo by Trish Gottesman

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