FORT IRWIN, Calif. — U.S. Army Soldiers with 1st and 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment conducted a trial at the National Training Center Oct. 18 with what is called the Live Round Interrupter. The safety product is designed to prevent live ammunition from being introduced into blank fire training scenarios.
After an extensive review by Army Testing Evaluation, Department of Defense Explosive Safety Board and Department of the Army Safety Counsel, the interrupter was introduced to approximately 70 Soldiers responsible for providing a world-class opposing force at the National Training Center. The Soldiers tested the interrupter during high-fidelity decisive action training against the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Rotation 18-01.
As it stands, the U.S. Army has adopted the Blank Fire Adapter (BFA) during blank fire training exercises, which is used for smooth firing sequences while using blank rounds. If a live round is mistakenly introduced, the BFA is intended to absorb most of the energy, however the current safety device does not stop the round from engaging the intended target, causing injuries and deaths.
“Approximately three to four Soldiers are killed every year when live rounds are introduced to blank fire training exercises,” said Wes Inskeep, president and engineer with Blank Safe. “With the Live Round Interrupter, the magazine will load the round, but will not properly chamber the round due to the length difference between the live round and blank round.”
The Live Round Interrupter, engineered by Blank Safe, is attached to the barrel similar to the BFA, however it also consists of a metal rod that resembles a cleaning rod used to clear Soldiers off qualification ranges. The rod is placed down the inside of the barrel with a clamp placed on the barrel tip to lock everything in place. The device prevents a live round from firing due to the depth of the firing pin strike, therefore a live round will not fire because of the length of a live round versus a blank round.
The new safety device also adds realism, increases performance and reduces weapon malfunctions, according to Inskeep.
“You know how when you shoot blanks they really don’t shoot great? You tend to get a lot of feed issues and it just sounds different than when you shoot live rounds,” he said. “That’s because it is different, it’s almost 50 percent slower per shot firing a blank versus a live round. You’re going to feel the difference in your shoulder.”
After the 13-day field trial, Soldiers from 1st and 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, largely agreed that their weapons cycled faster, were easier to clean and had no miss-feeds. However, a crucial problem was discovered during the test-run.
“I only used the device for two missions, because the laser was not firing to engage the enemy MILES (Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System). We ended up having to switch back to the BFAs,” said Sgt. Blade Gabbard, 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. “I think the Live Round Interrupter would provide a lot of safety, it just has to get past the MILES issue. But in all honesty, I think everyone should have one.”
According to Inskeep, Blank Safe tested the Live Round Interrupter with an older generation of the MILES system and will now perform further tests in order to move forward.
“If it’s not triggering the MILES system it does very little good for force-on-force training,” said Inskeep. “The end state is to get something that works for everybody. We are back to the drawing board to figure out the MILES issue, but this is a level of safety we owe to our Soldiers.”