In an effort to stem work-related injuries and speed the assembly of munitions aboard aircraft carriers, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) spearheaded the development of a more efficient and ergonomic way to build bombs at sea.
The ONR-sponsored improvements will allow sailors to move around more freely and assemble multiple bombs simultaneously on smaller, individual stands.
“The main objective here is to improve the quality of life for sailors,” said Tom Gallagher, who manages the ONR TechSolutions program that oversaw the improvements. “They asked for a better, safer, more comfortable way to build these weapons, and that’s what we’re delivering.”
For safety reasons, crews try to avoid storing assembled bombs aboard ships. Instead, sailors work in the ship’s magazine to put together weapons as needed.
In addition to being heavy, bombs include many components such as noses, tails, fuses, lugs and wires that have to be assembled without power tools. Until now, this has been done on a long table in confined space, requiring repetitive and often awkward motions that can result in painful and costly injuries, especially to the back.
During a recent demo at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., sailors from USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) who had never seen the new tables before were able to set them up in less than two minutes and begin building a GBU-16, a 1,000-pound laser-guided bomb.
The new stands can accommodate bombs weighing up to 2,000 pounds and be adjusted for height, eliminating the need for workers of different heights to repeatedly bend down or stretch awkwardly to reach components.
The idea for the new bomb-assembly tables came from ONR’s naval aviation science advisor as a result of direct interaction with sailors. ONR then partnered with Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division – Ship Systems Engineering Station (NSWCCD-SSES), BAE Systems and Newport News Shipbuilding to make them a reality.
“It’s a perfect example of how a TechSolutions project is supposed to work,” said Tom McCammon, an engineering technician at NSWCCD-SSES. “We have been getting invaluable feedback from sailors, which shortens our design cycle and helps us get this improved capability to the fleet even faster.”
TechSolutions is designed to bridge the gap between warfighters and scientists by accepting requests directly from sailors and Marines and delivering prototypes to them within 18 months.
Through this and other programs, ONR is finding affordable solutions that answer Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert’s call in his 2014-2018 Navigation Plan for timely modernization to increase the proficiency and readiness of deployed forces.
The next step for the prototype bomb-assembly tables is to bring them aboard an aircraft carrier to allow sailors to build bombs on them in an actual magazine. This will provide valuable information on how best to integrate them into a real ship environment.