Drew Defense GmbH of Bremerhaven, exhibiting at Eurosatory 2016, specialises in defence pyrotechnics and can lay claim to an extensive heritage of supplying armed forces all over the world. Although there is a case to be made that pyrotechnics used in training and perhaps even in safety/rescue applications are pretty much a commodity, some companies adopt a radically different approach to the market. Drew Defense is one of them.
Evident on the company’s stand were two examples of an innovative approach to the issue of effective pyrotechnics. First is a replacement for the elderly (though still effective) Thunderflash, a blast simulator that is simultaneously heavy enough to be thrown a good 20 metres or so and light, small and modern enough to offer considerable savings in acquisition and operating costs. Using components common to the company’s Multiple Effects Cartridge System (MECS), it produces 155 decibels at a distance of three metres – enough to inject an adrenalin rush in the most hackneyed of soldiers – but crucially, according to Business Development Director Hans Morotini, “produces no fragmentation and therefore no contamination.”
This means that environmental cleanup – an issue of increasing concern to range operators and owners – is limited to picking up the two component parts of the device once used. Using mechanical rather than electrical ignition, the device immediately attracted attention from the Bundeswehr, whose current training grenade is a replica of the celebrated ‘potato masher’ dating from the 1930s, made of Styrofoam, which is essentially non bio-degradable and therefore presents a significant contamination problem.
The company is trialling a version that offers a selectable whistle which, if successful, will make it infinitely more attractive to the US Army, according to Morotini.
The new generation smoke grenade also on view has no safety pin and can be ‘made safe’ even after being armed through use of a patented switch that operates in a manner reminiscent of a child proof pill bottle top. In addition, the grenade uses a far lower proportion of expensive colour dyes to produce the smoke effect which, since the dyes are the most expensive component of the chemical composition, offers significant cost savings passed on to the customer.
Both devices speak to Morotini’s exposition of the company’s philosophy. The customer today wants to be able to “train with all your senses” more than ever before, he says. He draws an analogy to the celebrated shower scene in the Hitchcok film Psycho. “Play it with no sound, then repeat it with sound and see how different the effect on the audience is,” he says. Providing auditory, visual and even blast effects that are real and immediate to the individual contributes enormously to the training effectiveness of such devices. And if that effect can be produced at a price that Morotini describes as “no more expensive [than current solutions] and in all probability less,” – who is going to sat no?