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NSWC Crane small arms team recognized for first-of-its-kind, critical testing for Marine Corps

By Sarah K. Miller, NSWC Crane Corporate Communications | April 9, 2020

CRANE, Ind. – A Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) team was recognized for their critical and responsive testing efforts in support of the Marine Corps. LtCol Timothy Hough, Program Manager, Infantry Weapons for the United States Marine Corps (USMC), presented the Crane Small Arms team with coins of appreciation and a plaque in February to commemorate the extensive efforts required to execute the live-fire testing event.

The Crane Small Arms team conducted dual phase testing to determine potential issues with the relatively new configuration of the M2 Heavy Barrel Machine Gun, called the M2A1.

“The Marine Corps was faced with a problem with one of our most important weapons,” says LtCol Hough. “We were fortunate to work with this professional, hardworking team for getting solutions quickly to training and deployed Marines. A test of this magnitude usually takes months to execute, and this team conducted Phase I in six weeks. The amount of manpower it took to make this test a priority and a success shows how great of a teammate Crane is to the Marine Corps.”

The M2 base weapon has been around in design for around 100 years – a testament to the importance of the weapon to the Army and Marine Corps. The M2 .50 Caliber Machine Gun, Heavy Barrel is an automatic, recoil operated, air-cooled machine gun with long-range capability. LtCol Hough says that though service members have used this weapon for generations, NSWC Crane was able to use new data collection methods to ensure continued capability to the warfighter.

“The M2A1 is working better now than when before the tests began,” says Lt. Col. Hough. “They collected a terabyte of data a day and fired half a million rounds of ammunition. They tested through tough conditions like ground fires, snow, and rain. What’s innovative is how they attacked the problem; it was instrumental how they collected and inspected all this data.”

Sydney Griffith, a STEM Student Employment Program (SSEP) Engineering Intern at NSWC Crane, helped set up the M2A1 weapon instrumentation to collect data. Griffith is also a student studying Mechanical Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

“I onboarded this past fall and started working on Phase I, which was the largest part of the testing,” says Griffith. “Initially, I didn’t realize how big of a project this was. As we continued the testing process, I learned how far-reaching and important it was.”

Bobbie Smith, an Engineering Technician at NSWC Crane, collected data for the project.

“My brother is a Marine, so it means a lot to me to provide this kind of impact to the warfighter,” says Smith. “We collected a wide variety of data and made detailed notes – which we used to provide a solution for the Marine Corps.”

Logan Corbett, a Branch Manager at NSWC Crane, led the coordination effort of personnel and use of ranges. Corbett says during Phase I, they took the M2A1 weapon systems and conducted various tests using multiple cameras to measure how the gun failed. Corbett says this data collection plan was a new approach.

“There had never been a test done like this on the weapon,” says Corbett. “We had nothing to reference. We threw everything and the kitchen sink at them because we didn’t want to miss anything.   We baselined every weapon with X-ray equipment and precise measurements and instrumented them with accelerometers and strain gauges.  After weeks of rigorous testing and gathering data, we eliminated that there was a sole material issue causing their failures. During Phase II, we developed a maintenance strategy for the M2A1 and validated a method for how the weapon system should be maintained so there are no failures in the field. We gathered concrete data and proved the maintenance strategy for how to employ the weapons so they are fully operational for the end-user.”

Corbett credits the NSWC Crane employees for providing a rapid and effective solution to the Marine Corps.  

“The hallmark of a good organizational culture is the work ethic and attitude of the NSWC Crane employees,” says Corbett. “Everyone stepped up and understood the impact this was going to have on the end-user. We coordinated with other divisions on base to leverage their capabilities, and when I reached out, no one said, ‘we don’t have time for that.’ Everyone was solution-minded; they understood their role and were flexible to meet the needs of the fleet.”

About NSWC Crane

NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.

Join Our Team! NAVSEA employs a diverse, highly trained, educated, and skilled workforce - from students and entry level employees to experienced professionals and individuals with disabilities. We support today's sophisticated Navy and Marine Corps ships, aircraft, weapon systems and computer systems. We are continuously looking for engineers, scientists, IT and cyber specialists, as well as trade and other support professionals to ensure the U.S. Navy can protect and defend America. Please contact NSWC Crane Human Resources at crane_recruiting@navy.mil.