The US Army Needs Some Help Destroying 15,000 Battleship Shells

The U.S. Army is looking for someone to deactivate 15,000 obsolete artillery shells. These shells, which were ammunition for the Navy’s biggest battleship guns, need to be disassembled and rendered safe.

According to Federal Business Opportunities, the Army has 15,595 16-inch artillery shells sitting at Crane Army Ammunition Activity in Crane, Indiana. These shells were intended for the 16″/50 caliber main guns of the Iowa-class battleships—like the U.S.S. New Jersey in the video below—which were the biggest guns ever mounted on a U.S. Navy ship. However, these ships, first commissioned for World War II, are now enjoying a much-deserved retirement, having exited service at the end of the Cold War.

But these ships’ rounds are still hanging around and they’re the real deal, built to smash other battleships—and hardened beach fortifications—to bits. The stockpile includes high capacity high explosive rounds, armor piercing shells, and practice rounds. Each high capacity round weighs 2,054 pounds, with 154 pounds of high explosive and a 1,900-pound steel body. Each armor piercing shell weighs 2,700 pounds and is filled with either 41 pounds of explosives or up to 666 grenades.

The Army wants these shells “demilitarized”, which means breaking them down into smaller parts so they can no longer be used as intended. They will likely be cut apart or crushed for scrap.

USS New Jersey firing a broadside during the Vietnam War.

We understand that artillery shells—or as calls them “battleship food”—need to be safely trashed. But we wonder if a giant steel bomb isn’t still useful to the Department in Defense in some way, especially in an age of tight budgets.

During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the Air Force made bunker-busting bombs out of eight-inch howitzer barrels in a matter of days. Could something similar be done with these shells? Scrapping 15,000 ready-to-go munitions seems like a missed opportunity.