The overall objective is to validate the use of command detonation in assessing residue deposition rates for munitions. Command detonation simulates residue deposition rates as they would occur when fired from a weapon system (i.e., live fire), and it is currently the only method to test residues early in the acquisition process. This project aims to validate command detonation by determining live fire residue deposition rates for two insensitive munitions that already have well established deposition rates using two different command detonation systems. Use of this technology for residue testing during the acquisition process would address future range sustainment, environmental liability, and warfighter readiness issues facing the DoD.

Technology Description

Command detonation systems enable a munition to be detonated remotely at a testing location by replacing the munition’s issued fuze (i.e., proximity, impact, delay, multi-option) with one that can be initiated on command. Following command detonation, the detonation area can be sampled and analyzed to determine deposition rates for munition residues (i.e., energetic compounds) on a per round basis. However, in replacing the standard issue fuze, it is uncertain if deposition rates produced by command detonation accurately reflect actual deposition rates that occur by live fire using the standard issued fuze. This project will determine live fire deposition rates for two munitions that have well established command detonation deposition rates using two different command detonation systems. This validation will be the first to quantify live fire residue deposition rates from insensitive munitions. Complete success in validating this technology is no statistical difference between live fire deposition rates and those determined by command detonation, as well as successful transfer of this validation to munitions stakeholders.

Live-fire detonation of an 81 mm mortar cartridge, and subsequent incremental sampling of the post-detonation residue and soot on snow.


Environmental impacts from the loading of munitions residues on training ranges present a risk to range sustainment and warfighter readiness. Recent SERDP-funded command detonation tests have identified munitions with unusually high residue deposition rates from high-order detonations. Some of these findings have led to the reclassification of one munition, partial re-design of another munition, and avoidance of substantial future environmental liabilities; however, this testing was not part of the routine life cycle environmental assessment for new munitions. Validation of command detonation technology would support the inclusion of residue testing early in the acquisition cycle, before rounds are certified for live fire and before substantial production costs are incurred. Implementation of command detonation residue testing would prevent significant environmental impacts from new munitions, thereby sustaining ranges for continuous warfighter training into the future.