Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division
Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division

INDIAN HEAD, Md. – Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division (NSWC IHD) recently signed a Naval Energetic Systems and Technologies (NEST) Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) with Global Military Products (GMP) for the production of triaminotrinitrobenzene (TATB).

The agreement – sponsored by National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy – will result in a four-year prototype facilitization project to manufacture insensitive high-explosive compositions for strategic systems in support of both the Department of Defense and NNSA.

“Our command, in partnership with Global Military Products, will develop a pilot-scale prototype production capability at NSWC IHD for TATB and other compositions,” said NSWC IHD Technical Director Ashley Johnson. “As the Navy’s only arsenal, this agreement allows for facility upgrades to ensure critical energetics are delivered to the warfighter and other customers.”

TATB-based plastic bonded explosives are powerful explosives insensitive to shock, vibration, fire or impact, which makes them a preferred application where extreme safety is required, such as the explosives used in nuclear weapons.

This upgraded TATB Synthesis Facility will leverage existing infrastructure and capabilities within NSWC IHD’s Energetics Manufacturing Department, including the adjacent Agile Chemical Facility’s spent acid waste handling and state-of-the-art control room. As part of this partnered effort, NSWC IHD is renovating two facilities to establish a TATB and TATB-based plastic bonded explosives production plant.

The NNSA is also leveraging the NSWC IHD Energetics Manufacturing Department’s Chemical Process Research and Development Laboratory to explore important aspects of the TATB synthesis process. The use of process analytics in a data-rich approach to understand the entire TATB synthesis at the laboratory scale, informs the full-scale design and required in-situ process monitoring equipment. 

NSWC IHD received the authority to establish the NEST OTA in 2020, allowing the command to enter a contract outside the Federal Acquisition Regulation with nontraditional defense contractors. Under a traditional contract assignment, once a Request for Proposal is released, the customer is not permitted to speak with the submitting company.

However, OTAs allow the customer to work with companies to discuss making the product better and facilitating partnerships between private industry and the customer. In the 10 months since the first award request, the NEST program has made 18 awards, totaling $159 million in prototype projects.

“The NEST OTA allows us to drastically reduce potentially lengthy contracting procedures to more rapidly develop a prototyped product,” said NSWC IHD NEST OTA Program Manager Dr. Chris Wilhelm. “We have had incredible success using this agreement since its August inception. However, the agreement between NSWC IHD, GMP and our sponsors at the NNSA may be the feather-in-the-cap for our efforts so far.”

NSWC IHD — a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command and part of the Navy’s Science and Engineering Establishment — is the leader in ordnance, energetics and EOD solutions. The Division focuses on energetics research, development, testing, evaluation, in-service support, manufacturing and disposal; and provides warfighters solutions to detect, locate, access, identify, render safe, recover, exploit and dispose of explosive ordnance threats.

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