How Hydro-Ordnance Works

By: Robert Valdes

You hear a lot these days about $2,000,000 tanks or $30,000,000 fighter jets. But in the grand scheme of things, the cost of tanks and jets is insignificant when compared to the cost of the ammunition loaded into these pieces of hardware.

The U.S. Defense Department spends nearly one billion dollars a year loading arms, armor, aircraft, and artillery with the ordnance needed to make these battlefield tools deadly to the enemy.


Srgt. Max Moore test fires the pump action CPS 1200 Lance. This will replace the AR-15 as the standard issue rifle for U.S. Infantry.

Since most of this ammo is used for training exercises, it represents a tremendous expense that is getting harder and harder to justify. In response, the military is seeking more cost-effective and environmentally-benign ordnance.

In this article, we will look at the new face of ammunition in the U.S. Armed Forces, and see how the art of war is about to be brought to a whole new level thanks to Uncle Sam.

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Making a Splash


U.S. Special Forces Hydro-Shock Trooper prepares for battle
Water has long been used by law enforcement around the world as a non-lethal weapon in crowd control. High-pressure water hoses can suppress angry mobs with hundreds of people in a matter of seconds.

Consider the principle of taking a non-lethal water weapon and "turning it up a bit" to adapt it into a design capable of delivering enough punch to make it combat-worthy. This was the starting point for the U.S. military's initial deliberations in the design of what it's now calling hydro-ordnance. The scope of the design was eventually expanded to include mortar rounds, anti-tank weaponry and aerial smart munitions. The ultimate goal is an inexpensive, environmentally-benign ammunition that has the same lethality and effectiveness as traditional munitions in use today. With the latest and most advanced hydro-ordnance to date, U.S. military researchers believe they have reached that goal, and will be able to deploy it across the entire military infrastructure.

Dr. Blanchard suggests:

In order for this initiative to effectively reduce the cost of military spending on ammunition, we had to redefine the idea of "the round" across the board. We would like to see water based munitions replace traditional ore- and alloy-based munitions in the next 15 to 20 years. The pace of this replacement will be gradual and consistent with our commitment to national security. If our projections are correct, based on some of the design options we've been presented with, the successful development of a water round could reduce spending by up to 80 percent.


Ordnance specialists move ammo onto the battlefield during training exercises.

As development was underway, a second advantage of water presented itself. Although unknown to most, high-pressure water is often used as a cutting tool in place of high-temperature plasma torches. "Once we realized the cutting potential," said Blanchard, "it opened up a completely new way of thinking."

Let's look at how military thinkers plan to put hydro-ordnance in the hands of every U.S. serviceman by the year 2020.

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Reinventing the Waterwheel

The idea to use water as ordnance didn't come overnight. The challenge of reinventing how wars are won was put in the hands of the country's leading scientists. Defense Department Consultant Dr. Vivian Blanchard worked for almost three years trying to discover a new, more cost-effective type of ammo.
I was sitting at my beach house in Seaside trying to look at this thing from all angles. Then it hit me. As the surf rolled in, I thought "I'm looking at the largest ammo dump in the world! It's brilliant I said to myself, "Hit our (ammo) dumps, all you'll get is a splash." Once I was in that mind frame it all fell in place.


Soldiers reload their weapons at Base Camp Victor Zulu.

This February, military contractors, working under the utmost secrecy, developed the first fully functional prototypes for the CPS 1200 Lance assault rifle, CPS 40 Marlin pistol, and the CPS 6000 Eroder heavy machine gun. CPS, which stands for Compression Propulsion System, designates the firearm as a hydro-weapon, and the number indicates the psi (pounds per square inch - a measurement for water pressure) the firearm is capable of producing.

Now, let's see how these amazing weapons work.

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Special Delivery

The Compression Propulsion System (CPS) is a set of mechanisms made to be retrofitted onto existing firearms. This prevents the waste of disposing of thousands of perfectly good weapons.


Early CPS prototypes were difficult to reload
in tense combat situations.

"The idea was to save money through reuse. The CPS is the perfection of this idea. They didn't want us to change the slingshot -- just what we put in it," stated Dr. Blanchard as she addressed a Congressional sub-committee in December 2003.

CPS uses highly carbonated water as the payload. The carbonation allows the water to achieve the range and force of a conventional bullet. Though the details of the design are still classified, the basic principle is pretty simple.

Water is stored in a tank mounted on the rifle. CO2 is stored in a separate container. When the trigger is pulled, the water is pressurized and blended with the CO2 in the chamber of the rifle. Tiny agitators, called tumblers, spin inside the chamber, further increasing the pressure of the carbonated water. When the soldier releases the trigger, a shudder draws back, freeing the highly pressurized water. Like after shaking a soda can, the liquid explodes out of the chamber. As it is released, the water spirals toward the target thanks to tiny grooves carved into the inside of the rifle barrel. This spiraling action increases accuracy and the concentration of the water stream once it leaves the barrel. The spiraling action also serves to further agitate the carbonated water. In terms of capabilities, the CPS weapons match their conventional counterparts almost exactly. Several military firearms have been modified to create the new hydro-ordnance-capable replacements. The military intends to eventually modify all weaponry to accept a CPS. The tables below list the successful prototypes and their battlefield ratings.

Assault Rifles
RangeAccuracy
Rate of Fire
PortabilityDamage
Excellent
Good
Excellent
Fair
Good
AR-15 = CPS 1200 Lance
M-16A = CPS 1350 Water Pick

Side Arms
RangeAccuracy
Rate of Fire
PortabilityDamage
Poor
Excellent
Poor
Excellent
Good
Sig Sauer .380 = CPS 40 Marlin
USP .40 = CPS 90 Barracuda
Desert Eagle .50 = CPS 2900 Storm

Suppression
RangeAccuracy
Rate of Fire
PortabilityDamage
Excellent
Poor
Excellent
Poor
Excellent
M60E4 = CPS 6000 Eroder

Close Combat
RangeAccuracy
Rate of Fire
PortabilityDamage
Poor
Poor
Poor/Good
Excellent
Excellent
12G M-1 Combat Shotgun = CPS 1200 Mako
12G M-1A Auto Shotgun = CPS 1200A Auto Mako

Submachine Gun
RangeAccuracy
Rate of Fire
PortabilityDamage
Fair
Good
Good
Excellent
Good
MP-5A4 = CPS 950 Blue
MAC-11 = CPS 400 Squirt

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Water Damage

The military wanted to make sure that all hydro-ordnance could handle the demands of any combat situation. To that end, they set up a standard that all hydro-ordnance had to be able to penetrate specific material at a rate of at least 400 mm per minute. Hydro-ordnance passed with flying colors, penetrating materials that traditional bullets couldn't even scratch.


A decommissioned troop transport takes a hit from a Dennis Round during test firing.

Hydro-ordnance can blast through:

  • Glass
  • Ceramic
  • Marble
  • Kevlar
  • Plastics
  • Rubber
  • Copper
  • Lead
  • Titanium
  • Aluminum

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Unconventional Warfare

The U.S. military has every confidence in the CPS. They have already begun training 4,000 troops with modified CPS weapons. The CPS 1200 Lance is being well-received by troops.


Marines complete a hard day of Hydro-Endurance Training at Parris Island.

"For its balance, rate of fire, and reliability in the field, the 1200 is the foot soldier's best friend. And the d--- thing is just so easy to clean," reports Srgt. Moore of the USMC.

The handheld CPS 40 Marlin pistol is already being carried by officers overseas.

Heavy gunners will soon be replacing their M-60E4s with the CPS 6000 Eroder. This massive weapon is capable of spitting out 4 gallons of highly pressurized water every second at a whopping 6,000 psi. This is powerful enough to saw a tank in half from 90 feet (27.4 meters) in less than three minutes.


The CPS 12000 replaces the conventional shoulder mounted RPG. Troops call this anti-tank weapon the "can opener."

For close-quarters combat against multiple adversaries, the CPS 1200 Mako, or "splatter gun," as it is called, is an effective replacement for the combat shotgun. The Mako produces a water pulse capable of knocking down a brick wall. This gun fires a sheet-spray of water 15 feet (4.6 meters) in diameter, traveling just under the speed of sound.

"It will literally tear the uniforms off of enemy soldiers. It's a devastating weapon," reports Srgt. Moore.

In addition, there have been CPS kits developed for submachine guns and shoulder-mounted RPGs.

For heavy firepower, the CPS 60,000 Poseidon Cannon and several of its variations are being retrofitted onto tanks and other armored vehicles.


The M-1 tank will be retro fitted to use a variation on the 60,000-psi Neptune Cannon.


The DewDrop hydro-grenade explodes on contact, releasing a sticky liquid mixture soldiers call "apple juice."
The military is not limiting itself to projectile-based weaponry. The W-4 DewDrop is a replacement for a traditional hand grenade. The DewDrop contains carbonated water mixed with a powerful narcotic, a noxious gas and an adhesive. Soldiers call this sticky fluid apple juice.

The apple juice is first contained in aluminum modules called zippers. To use the DewDrop, soldiers connect a polyethylene sack to a tab on the zipper. Pulling the pin on the zipper releases 15 ounces of apple juice into the sack. The apple juice also contains small metal abrasives that pass rapidly through the slip, a tiny opening in the zipper. The friction between the abrasives and the slip causes the aluminum to heat. This heat melts the polyethylene, fusing the now empty zipper to the sack. The zipper adds weight and balance to the otherwise hard-to-throw DewDrop. Once thrown, the DewDrop explodes on contact.

When the DewDrop explodes, it releases its contents in a highly destructive splash. The noxious gas and narcotics are also released, disabling any enemy soldiers not killed by the blast. The adhesive in the apple juice causes it to stick to enemies, ensuring the success of the narcotic.

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Rain of Terror

Artillery and air units will also employ hydro-ordnance. Larger versions of the DewDrop, and the accompanying CPS to deliver them, will make their way onto aircraft and artillery pieces in the years to come.

Tests have already begun with the 300-gallon Dennis round. This round is an artillery sack that can deliver a whopping splash nearly 350 feet (106.7 meters) in diameter. Primarily designed to be fired from mortars and field cannons, this round will be used for anti-armor and anti-personnel purposes.


The spherical "Dennis" Round will replace the traditional shell in field artillery.

Larger variations on the Dennis round are being developed to be used on naval battleships and fast-attack frigates.


The Navy deploys a 10,000-gallon anti-submarine Bends Bomb.

From the air, bombardiers will be hoisting the largest piece of hydro-ordnance created yet. The 35,000-gallon Poseidon Bomb is capable of leveling a square area the equivalent of 15 city blocks.


A B-2 Stealth Bomber drops the new 35,000-gallon Poseidon Bomb.

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Troubled Waters


Infantry taking "heavy water" in combat call for air support.
One can only assume that if the U.S. military adopts hydro-ordnance, other countries will follow suit. The United Nations has already expressed concern that this development will restart an arms race that will eventually spin out of control.

Olivia Nichols of the U.N. Security Council paints a horrible but plausible picture:

I see countries rising against each other, waterarms in hand; streets wet, homes soaked, cities flooded. This insane plan will come to no good end. We are about to restart a cycle of countries trying to best each other, turning the tide on one another in the name of power. My heart floods with the tears of the future. When will it stop? When all our lakes and oceans are drained and our children are drenched...

U.S. lawmakers also worry about the legality of hydro-ordnance. NATO has raised questions about hydro-ordnance's compliance with current NATO standards. Environmental lobbyists have already objected to the use of hydro-ordnance, claiming that the U.S. will consume vast amounts of water quickly once the system is adopted across the military.

The Defense Department has shot back, estimating that over 53 percent of water used in training will be recoverable through condensation. They also point out to environmental critics that the benefit of taking explosives and fire out of warfare will reduce airborne pollution. In addition, battlefields will no longer be littered with spent shells and potentially hazardous unexploded ordnance.


Ground forces use Neptune Cannons to provide cover for a C-130 taking off in enemy territory.


Special Forces attack an enemy helicopter during a daring night raid.

U.S. Army General Bo Riker predicts, "Battlefields of the future will be much cleaner ... and slippery."

No matter the outcome, hydro-ordnance is a fascinating technology that will inevitably change the way we fight wars. For more information, check out the links on the next page.

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