The last M55 rocket containing VX nerve agent was destroyed April 19 at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant marking a milestone for the destruction of chemical weapons under the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty.
Destruction of the VX M55 rockets began at the Blue Grass Army Depot on July 9, 2021. Under the observation of trained operators, automated equipment disassembled nearly 18,000 rockets and drained the chemical agent. Nearly 13,000 155mm projectiles containing VX nerve agent were destroyed at the plant.
“It has been an honor to support BGCAPP as they destroyed VX rockets,” Lt. Col. Edward Williams, Blue Grass Chemical Activity commander, said. “Completion of this campaign represents a significant milestone in the path to eliminate the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile.”
Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, served as engineering and construction oversight for the Program Executive Office Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives for the duration of this project and continue to maintain a role in ongoing facility reconfigurations.
“The Ordnance and Explosive Branch, the Electronic Security MCX, Facility Explosive Safety MCX, and the construction support branch continue to be involved in ongoing construction and maintenance tasks for the BGCAPP project,” BGCAPP Construction Lead Aaron Renfro said.
The chemical weapons stockpile at the depot originally comprised 523 U.S. tons of chemical agent configured in 155mm projectiles containing mustard and VX nerve agent, 8-inch projectiles containing GB nerve agent, and M55 rockets containing GB and VX nerve agent.
To neutralize the VX agent, it was mixed with water and caustic to produce hydrolysate. After the agent was destroyed, the hydrolysate was pumped to holding tanks and shipped to the Veolia Environmental Services in Texas.
The drained rocket warheads were then placed in temporary storage at BGAD and then destroyed in a Static Detonation Chamber unit on the depot. The SDC uses thermal destruction technology to process the weapons. The chemical munitions are boxed, conveyed to the top of the SDC vessel and fed into the electrically heated detonation chamber. The high heat detonates the munition, and thermal decomposition destroyed the chemical agents. The gases that are generated as a result of the detonation are treated by an off-gas treatment system. All waste streams generated are then screened and the scrap metal is decontaminated to be recycled.
Following the destruction of the final M55 rocket containing VX agent, over 46% of the original 523 U.S. tons of chemical agent has been destroyed.
“After more than a half century of chemical weapons storage in central Kentucky, the final chapter at Blue Grass Army Depot will soon begin,” Col. Stephen Dorris, Blue Grass Army Depot commander, said. Next, is the last destruction campaign of GB rockets, which will begin later this year.
The Chemical Weapons Convention treaty signatories have agreed to chemically disarm by destroying any stockpiles of chemical weapons by the congressional deadline of Dec. 31, 2023.