Military affairs beat: Army praises Alliant missiles

  • Article by: MARK BRUNSWICK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 2, 2012 - 8:03 PM

A missile system developed by Alliant Techsystems in Plymouth has been named one of the Army's greatest inventions of the year. But, in typical Army style, the year is 2011 and the celebration won't be until 2013.

The missile system, which uses standard 120mm mortars and transforms them into precision guided missiles by using GPS guidance and directional control surfaces, was one of 11 products Army evaluators gave thumbs up to last month.

The new system makes the mortars accurate within 10 meters of an intended target, which is designed to reduce collateral damage and give field commanders more flexibility.

The missile also provides a cheaper alternative to swapping out existing stockpiles with more expensive munitions. Alliant, which recently moved its headquarters from Plymouth to Washington, D.C., also got kudos for its ability to quickly develop the product, meet Army criteria for safety, reliability and accuracy, and then get it out to soldiers for training.

The idea of the awards is to make life easier -- and safer -- for grunts on the ground, so the products are less focused on big-ticket items like fighter jets and tanks and more on everyday use. Other products receiving recognition from the Army are also designed to aid combatants going on the offensive, including an enhanced .50-caliber machine gun.

Others have the potential to save lives and have more universal applications, including a 2-ounce helmet sensor that measures head pressure, which could help in the diagnosis and treatment of head trauma (the NFL is interested in exchanging information on this product); a pelvic protection system designed to shield wearers from buried improvised explosive devices; and a lightweight armor plate carrier designed to help reduce loads, increase mobility and provide better protection from direct fire.

Alliant won the award last year for its 5.56mm round for the Army's M4 carbine, which was lauded for having a better penetrating capability against hard targets.

Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434

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