The Army's Special Operations Forces have performed demolition operations dating back to pre-World War II using bulk explosives and non-standard, improvised methods. Soldiers have used materials found in the field such as junk yard scrap, glass champagne bottle bottoms and steel plates and molded the explosive to them in an attempt to increase the efficiency of the charges for specialized missions. Since the advent of munitions incorporating explosively formed penetrators as warheads, the Special Operations Forces have learned to build demolition charges using this technology. Often times, through trial and error, they succeed in building EFP demolition charges that will destroy the intended targets. However, their improvised demolition EFPs are rarely optimized nor do they have consistent and reliable performance because of the variability in materials and building techniques they employed.
In addition to fabricating the charges, the soldiers must improvise methods to attach the charges to a wide variety of targets, often for extended periods of time, in virtually all environmental conditions. The attachment methods also require the soldier's direct presence at the target. It could be a bridge's support columns, an electrical power substation, etc. Many of these missions do not permit a safe stand-off distance from the target during emplacement of the demolition charges. This exposes the soldiers to detection and eradication by the enemy forces.
To overcome these deficiencies, TACOM-ARDEC recently developed M303 Special Operations Forces Demolition Kit to provide the Special Operations Forces soldiers with state-of-the-art components and methods needed to accomplish their missions more safely, efficiently, and effectively while improving their survivability. The SOFDK allows soldiers to remotely acquire their targets at extended standoff distances using munitions that defeat targets using less explosives than conventional demolition operations. The SOFDK provides components and methods that greatly improve the soldiers' fighting ability by lightening the soldiers' load and reducing time-on-target.
The Kit is a collection of inert metal and plastic parts and commercially available items that give the SOF soldiers a wide selection of warheads and attachment devices which he can tailor to defeat a specific mission target. The various warheads include three sizes of conical shaped charges, four sizes of linear shaped charges, and a new capability with two sizes of explosively formed penetrators with more sizes to follow. The warheads are provided in a set configuration that contains all materials, less explosives, needed to pack the warheads with explosive, set them up and attach them on or near the target. It also gives the user a new capability in the form of an inert kit containing the components to tailor-make various explosive charges and securely employ or attach these charges to targets which is critical for mission success and user survivability.
The centerpieces of the M303 Kit are the new EFP warheads that provide a standoff capability, previously not available to the SOF soldier, to defeat hard targets. All materials in the Kit are inert and thus can be carried to the mission area using any available means of transport from military to commercial, air, sea or ground. In the last friendly area near the mission jump-off site, called the Isolation Facility, the user will study his target folder and select the proper warheads and hand pack the warheads with Composition C-4 moldable explosive. The warheads are then carried in the soldiers' rucksacks to the target site. The EFP warheads are set up on standard camera tripods included in the Kit and aimed with a built-in Omega sight or with one sight from the soldiers' standard set of four interchangeable carbine sights. Use of these sights provides the maximum accuracy at the greatest standoff distances attainable for numerous types of targets and mission scenarios. The warheads are primed with standard blasting caps or detonation cord and when initiated, form the EFP or "Canon Ball" that is explosively projected at high velocity to impact the target with devastating results. All warheads can be used in environments ranging from tropic to Arctic under limited visibility conditions. The EFP warheads can even be used in total darkness, when using the soldiers' standard visible laser or infra-red (night vision goggle-compatible) laser sight. The EFP warheads are effective in defeating a wide variety of targets ranging from eight-inch thick reinforced concrete block walls to three-inch thick armor plate.
The M303 was developed for and will be issued exclusively to the Army proponent within the Special Operations Command. Due to the strong User support from the Navy Seals for the EFP warheads and the medium and large linear shaped charges these items will also be procured for Navy use.
The Type Classification Standard action for the XM303 Special Operations Forces Demolition Kit was formally approved by Col. Thomas E. Dresen, Project Manager for Mines Countermine & Demolitions, the Milestone Decision Authority, Dec. 23, 1997.
TACOM-ARDEC developed the SOFDK to meet the requirements of the Special Operations Forces. Two significant items in the SOFDK are the lightweight explosively formed penetrators which were developed in-house using two and three dimensional computer analysis. The SOFDK program will now enter the full scale production phase. When fielded, the SOFDK will provide the users with enhanced capabilities for conducting demolition missions.
The SOFDK was Type Classified Standard in fiscal 1998 and is now in the production phase. It is logistically supported by an Operator's Manual and a Graphic Training Aid reference card. A product follow-on effort is underway to develop a larger EFP warhead for defeating a 24-inch reinforced concrete column. The program is managed by the Office of The Project Manager for Mines, Countermine and Demolitions. The Precision Munitions, Mines and Demolition Division, FSAC, manages the engineering effort for the program. Personnel from TACOM-ARDEC's Energetics and Warheads Division developed the EFP warheads.