Huntsville Center oversees the destruction of the last remaining VX nerve agent

Published May 10, 2022
Operators move M55 rockets containing VX nerve agent from a pallet to a transfer cart to begin the destruction process at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant April 15, 2022. (Courtesy photo by Blue Grass Chemical Stockpile Outreach Office)

Operators move M55 rockets containing VX nerve agent from a pallet to a transfer cart to begin the destruction process at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant April 15, 2022. (Courtesy photo by Blue Grass Chemical Stockpile Outreach Office)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- On April 19, the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville oversaw destruction of the last M55 rocket containing VX nerve agent at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Deconstruction Pilot Plant  (BGCAPP) in Kentucky, marking a milestone for the destruction of chemical weapons under the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty.

Huntsville Center served as engineering and construction oversight for the Program Executive Office Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives for the duration of this project and continues to maintain a role in ongoing facility reconfigurations.

“The Ordinance 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,” said Aaron Renfro, Project Lead Civil Engineer at Huntsville Center.

The Department of Defense was directed by Congress through Public Law 99-145 to be the government agency responsible for destruction of the chemical weapons stockpile. To comply with the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty and congressional mandate, destruction of these weapons was to be completed by 2007. An additional five-year extension was exercised allowing the program to meet a 2012 deadline. Another extension was approved for a January 2023 deadline.

The U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ agent for facility design and facility construction of chemical demilitarization facilities.

Destruction of the VX M55 rockets began at the Blue Grass Army Depot (BGAD) on July 9, 2021. Over 18,000 rockets and nearly 13,000 155mm projectiles containing VX nerve agent were destroyed at BGCAPP.

According to Mark York, Communications Manager for Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives “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.”

The drained rocket warheads were destroyed in a Static Detonation Chamber (SDC) unit on the depot. The neutralized VX agent was pumped to holding tanks and shipped to the Veolia Environmental Services in Texas. The chemical munitions were placed in high heat to destroy the chemical agents and the gases that were generated were treated by an off-gas treatment system.

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,” said Col. Stephen Dorris, BGAD commander.

Huntsville Center will continue to act as the agent for facility design and facility construction as the last destruction campaign of GB rockets commences later this year.

-----

Click here to learn more about Chemical Demilitarization and Defense Threat Reduction at Huntsville Center.