The Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (Forsvarets Forskningsinstitutt, NDRE) has recently signed a NOK 13.6 M (EUR 1.2 M) contract with Norwegian company Green Ammo AS for the development of ‘electronic blank ammunition’ for 7.62×51 mm and 12.7×99 mm weapons, according to a report posted by the Norwegian online Defence Forum (Forsvarets Forum) on 15 March. The development project will be managed by the NDRE.
The Norwegian armed forces are not new to the Green Ammo electronic blank ammunition system. Green Ammo originally developed its system for 5.56×45 mm rifles and, under a separate contract in October 2022, the Norwegian Army received 80 sets of the system for the HK416 service rifle for evaluation purposes. The evaluation will help the Norwegian armed forces determine if electronic blanks can replace traditional blank ammunition. An answer to this question is expected in the fourth quarter of 2023.
Green Ammo AS was established to develop, produce and commercialise electronic blank ammunition solutions. The technology is intended to supplement or replace traditional blank ammunition in military training and is based on three electronic assemblies that are applied to the weapon:
- An ‘electronic magazine’ with the same size and weight as a magazine with traditional ammunition. The magazine also contains a sound unit that simulates the report of the gunshot;
- A recoil module, which replaces the bolt in the weapon. The recoil module simulates the recoil of the weapon;
- A muzzle flash simulator.
All three assemblies are applied to the weapon temporarily, much like a traditional blank firing attachment. As such, training with the electronic blanks can be conducted with standard-issue weapons.
The main parts of the system are found in the electronic magazine. Each magazine can be programmed to simulate a specific number of loaded rounds, as well as the probability of stoppages that would be expected with live ammunition. There is also the possibility to combine the system with a weapon-mounted laser to allow basic marksmanship training or, presumably, tactical training similar to the well-known MILES laser training system.
If the Green Ammo electronic blank system works as advertised, as the current test in Norway is intended to reveal, soldiers can be trained in all aspects of weapons handling and use, including loading, shooting, reloading, clearance of stoppages etc, with the additional training benefits of felt recoil.
The electronic blank system also has a number of potential advantages over traditional brass, steel and plastic blank ammunition:
- Safety: since the electronic blank system replaces the bolt and the magazine in the weapon, there is no risk that a live round can be accidentally fired;
- Reduced cost, since no ammunition is consumed. As a reference, the total procurement of blank ammunition by the Norwegian armed forces in 2020 was estimated at 15.5 million rounds, for a total cost of NOK 62.7 M (EUR 5.5 M);
- No ejecta: since no actual propellant is used, there is no unburnt propellant or other residue ejected from the muzzle of the weapon, eliminating the need for a blank firing attachment and for safety distances;
- No clean-up: since no expended cartridge cases are ejected from the weapon, there is no need to clean up or collect cases after training;
Broader usability: the two latter points above mean that electronic blanks can be used in areas and locations where the use of traditional blanks would be restricted.
The 80 electronic blank sets delivered to the Norwegian Army in 2022 represent the first series-produced sets from Green Ammo and are an important step up from research and development. The company has revealed that several nations, both within and outside NATO, have tested their system and have shown interest. Under the new development contract with the NDRE Green Ammo now has the opportunity to expand its technology to other weapon types and calibres.
Thomas Lauge Nielson