Enhanced Lethality Warhead

Navy SBIR 22.1 - Topic N221-075
ONR - Office of Naval Research
Opens: January 12, 2022 - Closes: February 10, 2022 (12:00pm est)

N221-075 TITLE: Enhanced Lethality Warhead

OUSD (R&E) MODERNIZATION PRIORITY: General Warfighting Requirements (GWR);Hypersonics

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Materials / Processes;Weapons

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Develop and demonstrate new warhead configurations that leverage new and existing energetic and reactive materials in addition to novel design and manufacturing tools to significant increase warhead damage on target to achieve (1) decreased warhead size and weight while maintaining the lethality of today’s fielded weapons (e.g., Harpoon, LRASM for anti-ship), and (2) increased warhead lethality in the same form-factor to allow previously undersized weapons to engage a broader range of difficult target sets.

DESCRIPTION: Conventional kinetic weapons generally rely on some combination of high explosive formulation fill and inert metal fragments to damage targets. Mechanisms include detonation/shock wave, post-detonation-combustion/blast, and fragment perforation. Legacy warhead designs are often decades old and do not incorporate state of the art ingredients and design concepts. More importantly, these weapons are proving inadequate for emerging and even current threats, as they were originally developed for different historic target sets. Where more complex explosive responses are desired for special target applications and lethality enhancements, few material solutions have been available short of combinations of legacy warhead design features: complex fuzing, shape-charge jets, enhanced-blast fuel addition, etc.

More recently, advances in warhead material solutions and manufacturing/prototyping methods are emerging and have untapped potential to facilitate the development of modernized, enhanced lethality warheads with greater target damage potential at equal and reduced form-factors. For example, high density reactive materials (HDRM) are being explored for fragmenting warhead applications, providing additional incendiary and overpressure effects beyond conventional steel fragments. This will result in enhanced lethality and a reduction in the number of fired munitions to achieve confirmed kill on specific target sets, while maintaining the same warhead form-factor. 3D printed explosives and fragment architectures are also of recent interest for fragmentation size/shape control and directional damage effects on targets rather than conventional 360-degree blast and fragment dispersal.

While examples like reactive materials and 3D printing have been under development for decades, there remain numerous challenges and great potential for further warhead technology development and maturation. For instance, recent efforts, including those pertaining to HDRM fragmenting warheads, demonstrate the need for less complex, lower cost reactive material prototyping and manufacturing. In addition, accurate models are needed to facilitate adequate target damage credit for new warhead effects in main-stream lethality tools (AJEM, ASAP, etc.). Numerous other technical challenges and examples of desired warhead technologies include but are not limited to: explosive formulation 3D printing of complex shapes vs. poured/casted billets, bi/tri-metallic 3D printing of warhead relevant materials (titanium, tungsten, steel, zirconium, aluminum, etc.), incorporation of highly survivable (temperature, vibration) warhead materials (structural, energetic, or both), exploration of other tertiary lethal performance effects (e.g., enthalpic chemical reactions), combinations of the above to provide directional and selectable effects on target, and overall, a more complete fundamental understanding of how to take advantage of the specific location of metal and other reactive components within a warhead to control mixing/combustion/blast process fluid dynamics. Considering recent progress in warhead relevant ingredients, new processing, prototyping and manufacturing methods, material models and predictive design tools in tangential technology areas, it is anticipated that the "toolbox" of warhead material combinations and configurations can be greatly expanded and demonstrated to assure future Naval weapon overmatch.

Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. owned and operated with no foreign influence as defined by DoD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented and approved by the Defense Counterintelligence Security Agency (DCSA). The selected contractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances, in order to perform on advanced phases of this project as set forth by DCSA and ONR in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M during the advanced phases of this contract.

PHASE I: Develop and design, on paper, several feasible candidate warhead concepts using any combination of previously described or other novel technologies. Describe candidate prototype configurations and architectures in terms of: (1) expected lethality enhancements, (2) suitability for weapon speed regime (subsonic, supersonic, and hypersonic), (3) suggested warhead mass/volume/form factor, (4) example platform/weapon, and (5) example target sets.

Identify anticipated materials, manufacturing methods, design tools, and other relevant technologies that would enable the candidate warhead designs. Identify Technical and Manufacturing Readiness Levels (TRL/MRL) and cost of identified materials, methods, and other tools.

Complete initial modeling/simulation to provide some level of lethality assessment for candidate warhead concepts. At this stage, this modelling needs to be able to show that the new design has the potential to meet increased lethality goals. While this task may require Navy/DoD laboratory collaboration, truly high fidelity modelling is not the goal; the focus of the project is novel design/material use/et al.

Down-select to the most promising warhead designs and create technology and critical experiment demonstration plans and roadmaps.

Develop a Phase II plan.

PHASE II: Create preliminary designs for Phase I down-selected prototypes and execute material development and testing, demonstrating affordable and scalable manufacturing.

Execute critical experiments to demonstrate warhead concept(s) feasibility for lethality enhancements in laboratory/field test environment as appropriate. Sub-scale and sub-component test iterations are expected at this stage for concept refinement.

Complete detailed modeling and simulation, using higher fidelity tools as appropriate, to assess lethality for each prototype against selected target sets.

Pursue partnerships and work with appropriate DoD and/or DoD contractor points of contact (POCs) to down-select to the most promising prototypes. Create Phase III design, build, and demonstration plan(s).

It is likely that work and information exchanges during Phase II will become classified (see Description section for details).

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Complete detailed prototype design of down-selected concept(s), build prototype(s) and complete laboratory/field environment testing.

Leverage DoD/DoD Contractor POCs for transition of manufacturing capabilities as appropriate and transition into programs of record (POR) and/or other advanced demonstration programs.


  1. Cooper, P.W. and Kurowski, S.R. "Introduction to the Technology of Explosives." Wiley-VCH, New York, 1996.
  2. U.S. Army Material Command. "Engineering Design Handbook: Warheads – Introduction." CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, March 5, 2018. https://www.amazon.com/Engineering-Design-Handbook-Warheads-Introduction/dp/1986181871.
  3. Carleone, J. "Tactical Missile Warheads." Progress in Astronautics and Aeronautics, AIAA, Reston, 1993.
  4. Lloyd, R. "Conventional Warhead Systems Physics and Engineering Design." Progress in Astronautics & Aeronautics. AIAA, Reston, 1993.

KEYWORDS: Weapons; Warheads; Energetic Materials; Explosives; Reactive Materials; Lethality


The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the overall DoD 22.1 SBIR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at rt.cto.mil/rtl-small-business-resources/sbir-sttr/ for any updates.

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