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New handgun tested in ejection seat

AFOTEC Team Tests New Modular Handgun System

Master Sgt. Samuel Pruett, Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center force protection program manager, based at Eglin AFB, Fla., secures weapons on a test dummy prior to a test of the modular handgun system at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Dec. 6. The test address the new modular handgun system’ capability to resist damage during ejection and still function as designed after sustaining ejection forces. This is the first time any service has conducted this type of demonstration to ensure a side arm is safe for aircrew to carry in ejection seat aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Wesley Farnsworth)

The Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center Detachment 2 recently tested how handguns stand up to ejection seat forces during a test at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Dec. 4-7.

The unit conducted 57 ejection seat demonstrations on the Modular Handgun System, an Army-led program to replace the currently fielded Beretta M-9 pistol with the Sig Sauer XM17 and XM18 handguns.

Although aircrew have carried handguns in ejection seat aircraft for decades, this test was the first of its kind to ensure an accompanying side arm is safe for aircrew to carry in the event of an ejection.

The MHS is being adopted by all services, but each one plans to use the weapon in different environments. AFOTEC was selected to assist the Army Test and Evaluation Center in addressing the Air Force’s unique requirements for the joint handgun. 

“This demonstration addressed the safety and durability of the MHS to ensure it will not inadvertently discharge if combat aircrew are forced to eject from a disabled aircraft,” said Lt. Col. Adam Akers, the unit’s Combat Support Division chief. “We also looked to ensure the MHS could withstand the extreme physical forces endured during ejection and still function properly after the event.”

According to Akers, the Air Force will eventually adopt the MHS as its M-9 replacement.

The test was a collaborative effort between AFOTEC, the 711th Human Performance Wing and the Air Force Small Arms Program Office.

The 711th HPW operated a vertical deceleration tower and horizontal impact accelerator to generate forces equivalent to the maximum rate of acceleration for various ejection seats utilized in Air Force aircraft. 

To accomplish this, an instrumented mannequin similar to those used in automotive crash tests was secured in a simulated ejection seat, dropped down a vertical tower and rapidly decelerated to simulate the vertical forces experienced during ejection.  A horizontal impulse sled was also used to simulate the lateral acceleration forces sustained in certain ejection scenarios.

SAPO personnel conducted weapon disassembly, damage inspection, and reassembly of the weapons during the demonstration.

The results will be used to inform Air Force leadership on the MHS’s safety and durability and will influence Air Force acquisition decisions along with the development of tactics, techniques and procedures regarding operational employment.

AFOTEC Det. 2 plans, executes and documents realistic and objective tests like this to determine the effectiveness and suitability of Air Force and joint weapons systems, managing a diverse portfolio of operational tests for more than 40 Department of Defense acquisition programs.  Testing and evaluating new capabilities in operationally realistic environments delivers vital information to inform warfighters and influence national resource decisions. 

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