Watervliet Arsenal announced today that it received a $5.9 million contract to provide the Afghan National Army with nearly 900 60mm-mortar systems, as part of the U.S. State Department's Foreign Military Sales program.
Col. Mark F. Migaleddi, the Arsenal commander, said at a recent production meeting to senior Arsenal leadership that this order is an aggressive fielding effort with up to 150 systems being shipped per month. Fielding of these systems, and the indirect fire capability they provide, will support the speedy transition to a support role for U.S. forces, as well as the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Afghanistan theater of operations.
"This order not only reflects the high confidence the Department of Defense has on the Arsenal's ability to rapidly support the warfighter, but also speaks volumes to the importance of DOD maintaining an Army-owned-and-operated manufacturing center," Migaleddi said.
This multimillion dollar order will add to the Arsenal's current workload more than 14,000 hours of direct labor, said Ray Gaston, the Arsenal's chief of the Production Planning and Control Division.
"Our first shipment of mortar systems is currently being assembled for shipment and will go out this month," he explained.
Bruce Pienkoski, the Arsenal's program manager for processing this order, said the Arsenal was contacted late last month by U.S. Army planners to see if the Arsenal could respond within 30 days to an urgent need to get 60mm mortar systems to the Afghan army.
"I can't recall our working on such a quick turnaround to get our products out our gates since 2004, when we were called on to manufacture armor kits for U.S. troops in Iraq," Pienkoski said. "Over the course of six years, the Arsenal shipped more than 20,000 armor kits for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Why such urgency now?
President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address, Feb. 12, said that he intends to bring home nearly 34,000 troops from Afghanistan by 2014. This announcement came after the President hosted Afghanistan President Karzai at the White House in early January.
At the conclusion of the Obama's January meeting with Karzai, he said "today, we agreed that as Afghan forces take the lead and as President Karzai announces the final phase of the transition, coalition forces will move to a support role this spring. Our troops will continue to fight alongside Afghans, when needed. But let me say it as plainly as I can: Starting this spring, our troops will have a different mission -- training."
Gaston said it took the entire Arsenal team, from contractors to machinists to shippers, to develop the production plan and to ship its first product within 30 days of getting the contract.
"We knew we had to work fast because the faster we react and deliver these mortars into the hands of the Afghanistan solders, the sooner our U.S. Soldiers can come home," Gaston said.
The main part of the contract requires the Arsenal to act as a staging area for the various parts of the 60mm mortar system that are being collected from other Army installations. Upon the receipt of the parts, which consists of such things as barrels and base plates, the Arsenal will package them into complete mortar systems and then ship to Afghanistan. The contract also requires traditional manufacturing of select parts for the mortar system.
The shipments should be complete by the end of August.
The 60mm mortar system is used primarily by the infantry as an indirect fire weapon when a high angle trajectory is required to hit enemy troops, materiel, and positions. It has a maximum range of about 3,500 meters.
The Watervliet Arsenal is an Army-owned-and-operated manufacturing facility and is the oldest, continuously active arsenal in the United States having begun operations during the War of 1812. It will celebrate its 200th anniversary of providing continuous support to U.S. troops this July.
Today's Arsenal is relied upon by U.S. and foreign militaries to produce the most advanced, high-tech, high-powered weaponry for cannon, howitzer, and mortar systems. This National Historic Registered Landmark has an annual economic benefit to the local community in excess of $100 million.
By John B. Snyder
Source: US Army
Date: Feb 25, 2013