The readers may recall last year’s article explaining some aspects of the transition of Mulwala propellant manufacturing from the old 1940s-era factory into the modernised manufacturing facility which has improved environmental and safety benefits. The new propellant facility, commissioned by the Commonwealth, utilises modern technology to reduce environmental risks and impacts, while improving safety in processing. The following information is targeted toward you, our product users, to give you feedback on the switch to this new facility and what to expect in the future.
Australian Munitions is actively transitioning propellant manufacturing from the old facility to the new, with over two dozen propellant variants for both military and civil applications. These products include propellants for shotgun, pistol, rifle, medium and large calibre applications.
In last year’s article, we described some of the important differences between the old and new facilities and why these differences would require significant levels of industrial experimentation.
A significant number of trials have been performed to gain an operational understanding on the new factory at each process step to assess the effect on product performance, physical characteristics and to properly gauge production consistency requirements. Ultimately, the plant will be used in the way it was designed to operate and this is being managed through the transition of various process steps which are being brought on-line as plant capabilities mature, replacing the equivalent process in the old plant. This transition process ensures continuity of supply while the old plant is being shut down and the conditions for each process in the new plant are tuned to meet product performance and customer expectations.
The transition of the current rifle propellants, AR22-series, is in progress. During the transition ongoing supply will be maintained as the old plant continues to operate during the changeover phase. Replication of the AR22-series designs cannot be transferred directly from one plant to another to achieve the same performance. Understanding the process impact on burn rate and physical characteristics is essential to achieve consistent and expected performance across calibres and cartridge builds for each product variant.
Effort was directed into achieving a detailed understanding of how the processing parameters in the new facility are linked to performance, as well as how the formulation can be modified to compensate for the change.
As previously announced, other products in the shotgun/pistol range (AS/AP) will no longer be available and a newly developed Australian Pistol Shotgun (APS) range was developed to replace these. The new range of APS powders will be phased in from September 2017. Until then, Australian Munitions has produced enough AS30N, AS50N, AP50N and AP70N to ensure that the forecast needs of our Australian reloading customers can be met. The APS series propellants will consist of two designs; a free flowing flake type propellant covering AS30N, AS50N/AP50N burn rates and a new design covering the AP70N to AP100 burn rate range. These propellants were designed for consistent metering, clean burning and with the performance you expect.
We would like to give you feedback on the switch to this new facility and what to expect in the future
The new flake propellants (APS range) will be the first products released from the modernised plant, and are well advanced down the industrial readiness pathway. The new flake products are identifiable within the new APS-series of products and are set out as follows:
- APS350 – AS30N equivalence
- APS450 – AS50N and AP50N equivalence
These APS products are expected to be released in late 2017.
The technology in the modernised facility opens up a range of other opportunities for propellant design and we have taken the opportunity to rethink what can be achieved, particularly for pistol shotgun and small rifle applications. The new APS design will initially consist of APS650 (AP70N equivalent) and APS950 (AP100 equivalent) propellant products and is expected to be ready for commercial release in the first half of 2018. These products will incorporate the latest burn rate modifier technology and will have improved loadability and ballistic performance.
Australian Munitions is also planning to manufacture new rifle propellant products out of the new facility within the coming 18 months. Again, the aim is to capitalise on the technology in the new plant with modernised formulations and tuned geometries.
The new family of propellants for release will be referred to as the AR28-series which will incorporate new burn rate modifier technology, a de-coppering agent to inhibit the build-up of copper in the rifling of gun barrels, improved metering and higher velocities whilst still retaining the ballistic temperature independence technology of the old range that sets Australian Munitions’ propellants apart. For some applications we will bring across the latest military technologies – such as even further reduced fouling, muzzle flash reductions and extended weapons life lubricants.
The transition to the new facility is key to keeping a strategic capability in Australia, providing local jobs and a domestic supply of propellants. These are exciting times and we trust you will continue to enjoy the old products being manufactured in the new Australian Munitions factory and we look forward to your feedback as the new propellants ranges released over the next few years.