Rocket Destruction Efficiencies Applied for Final Destruction Campaign

Workers in protective suits make updates to the Punch and Drain Station in the Munitions Demilitarization Building at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant in preparation for upcoming GB nerve agent M55 rocket destruction. This automated system will punch holes in the rocket warheads and drain them of their chemical agent. (Portions of this photograph have been blurred in accordance with Department of Defense guidelines.)

The Blue Grass team is applying lessons learned during VX nerve agent M55 rocket destruction operations to optimize processing during the upcoming GB nerve agent M55 rocket destruction campaign.

“We learned things about how the new rocket processing equipment could be tuned up and adapted for better efficiency and throughput,” said Jeff Brubaker, technical advisor, Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant. “VX rocket operations were very helpful in showing us how to prepare for the GB M55 rockets, and we have been applying those lessons and making tweaks and changes during our changeover period.”

Some of the items included modifications to physical equipment, such as adapting a hold-down bracket for the machine that wraps the drained rocket warhead in plastic and enhancing the Punch and Drain Station to reduce the amount of decontamination work needed during and after operations, Brubaker said. Other changes included software code updates and design-change implementation. The team is also making process improvements to reduce worker entries into potentially toxic areas of the plant.

“The team also became familiar with the process of handling non-contaminated rocket motors and rocket warheads drained of their chemical agent in the main plant, both products of the destruction operations and considered secondary waste,” Brubaker said.

The rocket motors from VX operations were shipped to Alabama for destruction in the Anniston Static Detonation Chamber, or SDC. The Anniston SDC unit began destroying rocket motors March 29, 2022. The drained warheads were containerized, crated and delivered to temporary storage in the Chemical Limited Area on the Blue Grass Army Depot to await their destruction in one of the Blue Grass plant’s SDC units. These operations will continue for the GB M55 rocket campaign.

While the warheads do contain residual chemical agent, they are declared as destroyed per international Chemical Weapons Convention treaty requirements, Brubaker said. All rocket components are tracked by treaty representatives through their final destruction.

Destruction of the GB M55 rockets, the last of the five munition types in the original chemical weapons stockpile in Kentucky, are scheduled to begin in July.

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