Military Modular Weapons and Ammunition Storage
Portable, relocatable weapons and ammunition storage vaults can be a flexible asset for military bases as appropriations funding for “stick-built” structures in this fiscal environment is constrained.
By Del Williams
Traditionally, U.S. military bases have relied on permanent bunkers or “stick-built” structures to securely store weapons and ammunition. Most of these are World War II-era bunkers and were not constructed to fit today’s equipment and weaponry. Furthermore, building new permanent structures can be particularly challenging in this environment of of diminished resources.
“War in the last 12 years has brought a new line of equipment, but facilities, built in the 1950s and 1960s―and that's the norm in many states―can't support it,” says retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, President of the National Guard Association of the United States and former Adjutant General of Tennessee.
Constructing conventional, military compliant, stick-built weapons and ammunition storage vaults requires frequent inspections during construction. Each wall and ceiling must be inspected before concrete is poured; this can incur delays. Such construction is also subject to delays due to weather, labor, logistics and scheduling, which can further extend the delivery date and lead to significant cost overruns.
Modular weapons and ammunition storage vault. PHOTO COURTESY ARMAG CORP.
With MILCON funds having shrunk considerably as well, with the latest BRAC round finished and with two wars winding down, the conventional stick-built construction process is proving even more difficult.
“As recently as 2010, Congress provided $953 million for Army National Guard construction projects, which is about two-thirds of what we need every year for several years to bring our facilities up to the need,” says Gen. Hargett. “That was our high-water mark. The amount has dropped every year since. The Army Guard will receive $321 million this fiscal year and likely less in the years to come because of the current fiscal crisis.”
PRICE AND FUNCTION
Modular weapons and ammunition storage offer U.S. military a less costly alternative than permanent structures. These portable, relocatable weapons and ammunition storage vaults, sometimes called armories or magazines, can be custom built to military specifications more quickly and less expensively than stick-built structures.
Portable, modular Armag vaults are approved for ammunition and weapons storage by all branches of the U.S. military in accordance with DOD 5100.76M, AR190-11, and OPNAVINST 5530.13C. The company, a U.S. Federal Contractor Verified Vendor, served as a consultant to the U.S. Navy in developing the Type 2 specification for explosives storage. In contrast to stick-built structures, such modular weapons and ammunition storage vaults are pre-fabricated modular structures constructed offsite in a controlled environment. The modular buildings are not subject to on-site construction delays and cost overruns due to weather-related issues. These vaults can not only be delivered on the date requested at less cost than stick-built structures, but also made operational on that date usually within a few hours. Depending on the application, installation of the unit may include securing it to a foundation or risers, hooking up an external electrical or data source, or fastening together the segments of a multiplex unit.
Perhaps most importantly in this fiscal environment, unlike stick-built structures, modular structures can be purchased as equipment with Operations & Maintenance (O&M) funds instead of MILCON appropriations. This streamlines the purchasing process. Some can even be purchased by Military Interdepartmental Purchase Request (MIPR), due to the indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity contract some weapons storage vault manufacturers hold. This further reduces paperwork and delays.
Since the modular weapon and ammunition storage vaults are portable, they can be located near their point of use and relocated as necessary if the mission changes. On large military bases, this can help to maximize training while minimizing the travel, labor and expense of troop movement to acquire and return weapons and ammunition to storage.
At Fort Jackson, S.C., the U.S. Army’s largest basic training base, companies of soldiers were going through the ammunition supply point for training rounds several times per week. This caused numerous daily interruptions. In response, Fort Jackson acquired several multi-compartment ammunition storage magazines Each new magazine is located closer to the units, and each training unit has an assigned, secured compartment for storing their ammunition. While one Fort Jackson unit previously would send several companies per day to the ammunition supply point, now they go only once for an entire nine-week training session.
At Fort Jackson, S.C., the U.S. Army’s largest basic training base, companies of soldiers were going through the ammunition supply point for training rounds several times per week. This caused numerous daily interruptions.
RESILIENT AND FUNCTIONAL
While portable, modular weapon and ammunition storage vaults are convenient, U.S. military bases do not have to sacrifice functionality with them. Such structures offer the same options (such as power, climate control, and intrusion detection systems) as permanent structures.
Portable, modular weapon and ammunition storage vaults can be engineered for extreme environments including hurricane winds and extreme heat and cold. They have been used in the Afghanistan desert, which reaches 120 °F, and northern Canada and Alaska, where temperatures can drop to -50 °F for months.
Multiplex, multi-compartment, storage vaults for modular weapons and ammunition can range in size from 200-ft² to 10,000-ft². These vaults can be connected in several pieces with open sides where they join. They can offer options from spark resistant shelving to explosion resistant lights, HVAC, and humidity control. Other portable, custom storage vaults, such as the earth-covered magazines for explosive ordnance storage, can reduce the explosive safety quantity distance arc and provide additional safety to neighboring magazines. Such magazines are specifically engineered with the strength necessary to support their earth cover, yet they are designed to be moved and used in other locations after pushing their earth cover away.
Modular structures have also been customized for other uses such as command and control centers, ordnance inspection buildings, satellite tool and die shops, and living quarters for “ready-alert” teams. The modular design of these buildings is fully customizable, from the overall size, to doors and windows, interior rooms, electrical and network connections, lighting and special equipment.
In today’s fiscal environment, flexibility is key. When it comes to storage, decision-makers would do well to get creative and look beyond bricks-and-mortar solutions to find more space.