November 19, 2013 -- By Carden Hedelt, MCSC Corporate Communications
An Infantry Weapons Systems engineer from Marine Corps Systems Command won the Donald Roebling Award for acquisition innovation Nov. 4 at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
Sal Fanelli, a supervisory engineer for Infantry Weapons Systems at MCSC, received the 2012 Roebling award for his role in finding a better round of ammunition for Marines to use with the M16A4 rifle and the M4 carbine. Fanelli also led an effort that researched how the improved round would perform when fired from these two weapons.
"I had a lot of support from my boss and from all the active-duty folks," he said. "We did a lot of testing. We can say we really have an understanding of all the interdependencies that go on between barrels and ammunition and so many other variables. It's a careful balance that we have down to a science."
The Roebling Award goes to a civilian acquisition professional for superior professional excellence and innovation in pursuit of the acquisition, fielding and support of systems and equipment to the operating forces. The award takes its name from Donald Roebling, the inventor of the tracked amphibious tractor, which he later adapted to be a amphibean military transport vehicle.
The Roebling Award was one of three annual Marine Corps Awards for Acquisition Innovation and Excellence presented to employees for accomplishments within MCSC and Program Executive Officer Land Systems. MCSC is the Department of the Navy’s systems command for Marine Corps ground weapon and information technology systems, and the commandant's agent for acquisition and sustainment of warfighting systems and equipment. PEO LS is the Marine Corps acquisition arm for major land programs.
Fanelli takes personal pride in the project to find a new round, which he took over from then-Maj. Michael Manning, now a colonel and program manager for IWS.
"He was up for rotation, so I took the program over for him and continued the development," Fanelli said. "I pushed really hard because I knew he was going to be deployed. We got the ammo done and shipped into theater. When he went back for his second tour, his guys trained and used it in combat. He sent me a short email that said, 'Works as advertised.'"
The previous round, the M855, had inconsistent terminal effects and lacked barrier defeat purposes. The bullet would break apart hitting intermediate barriers, and hostile personnel were sometimes able to continue fighting after multiple hits.
Fanelli confirmed these inconsistencies with the M855 round through testing and set out to find a projectile that would be more consistent.
Two rounds met the needs of the Corps – the Navy's Mk318 Mod 0 round and the Army's M855A1 round. Through testing, Fanelli found that the M855A1 round caused unforeseen problems with weapon reliability.
"We saw problems. It was damaging bolts and causing wear on barrels, so they're redesigning the round again," Fanelli said.
He continues to work with the Army on their round to make sure interoperability remains possible between Army ammunition and Marine Corps weapons. Fanelli further tested both rounds on the 20-inch M4 barrel used by the Marine Corps. All previous testing used a 14.5-inch M4 barrel.
"For the foreseeable future, Marine Corps infantry units will still use 20-inch barrels [on the M16A4]," he said."We wanted to make sure all the development we did, all the results from performance through barriers and terminal effects were not affected by the fact that we went from a 14.5-inch to a 20-inch barrel."
Thanks to Fanelli's testing, the Mk318 Mod 0 round was fielded to the fleet. Marines now have a round that is more accurate, and has reduced muzzle flash with consistent terminal effects and adequate barrier penetration.
Vincent Ellis, Fanelli's former supervisor in IWS, was always impressed by the driven engineer.
"He always strived for excellence," Ellis said. "He often did much more than he was specifically called to do in his research. He's a true expert within this command."