One Way Luminescent (OWL) Tracer Technology for 40mm Ammunition

Navy SBIR 23.1 - Topic N231-005
MCSC - Marine Corps Systems Command
Pre-release 1/11/23   Opens to accept proposals 2/08/23   Closes 3/08/23 12:00pm ET

N231-005 TITLE: One Way Luminescent (OWL) Tracer Technology for 40mm Ammunition

OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): General Warfighting Requirements (GWR)

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Develop one-way luminescence (OWL) tracer technology that provides warfighters the capability to see the path of projectiles without exposing their positions, so that fire can be immediately adjusted instead of waiting for impact signatures.

DESCRIPTION: The intent of this SBIR topic is to develop OWL technology for 40mm ammunition. This includes low, medium, and high velocity cartridges. Additionally, high explosive and practice cartridges are to be included.

The technology must meet Threshold requirements = (T)

It is highly desirable that the technology meets Objective requirements = (O)

1)      Under Night and Low-Light conditions:

a)       Cartridge signature must be luminescent. (T=O)

b)      Cartridge signature must be non-incendiary and non-fire producing (T=O)

c)       Degree of visibility (DOV) from the gunner position must be less than 30 (T); less than 25 (O)

d)      Night Vision Goggles (NVG): Visible to the gunner for a range of 900 m (T); 1500 m (O)

e)       Eyesight/Optics: Visible to the gunner for a range of 900 m (O)

2)      Under Day conditions, visible to the gunner for a range of 900 m (T); 1500 m (O). With or without optics.

3)      Does not degrade precision or reliability in all weather / climatic conditions in which Marines operate. (T=O)

4)      Does not increase cost per cartridge by more than 5% (T); by more than 1% (O)

5)      Storage without degradation of compounds:

a)       Duration: 10 years (T); 15 years (O)

b)      Temperature: - 25C to 60C (T); -46C to 70C (O)

6)      Range is equal to or greater than currently fielded cartridges (T=O)

7)      Muzzle velocity is equal to or greater than currently fielded cartridges (T=O)


Current tracer technology has limitations in performance that this topic will address. This includes:

  • DOV: 30. Current technology has a DOV = 30 which may risk exposure of the gunners position.

  • Degradation: The luminescent technology currently available degrades after extended periods of time in storage. The decrease in effectiveness of the OWL technology diminishes lethality.


    PHASE I: Develop concepts for OWL technology that meets the requirements defined in the Description above. Demonstrate the feasibility of the concepts in meeting the Marine Corps requirements. Establish that the concepts can be developed into a useful product for the Marine Corps. Feasibility will be established by material testing and analytical modeling, as appropriate. Provide a Phase II development plan with performance goals and key technical milestones, and that will address technical risk reduction.

    PHASE II: Develop prototype 40mm cartridges for evaluation to determine their capability in meeting the performance goals defined in the Description above. Demonstrate technology performance through prototype evaluation and modeling over the required range of parameters. Evaluation results will be used to refine the prototype into an initial design that will meet Marine Corps requirements; and for evaluation to determine its effectiveness in an operationally relevant environment approved by the Government. Prepare a Phase III development plan to transition the technology to Marine Corps use.

    PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Support the Marine Corps in transitioning the technology for Marine Corps use. Support the Marine Corps for test and validation to certify and qualify the system for Marine Corps use.

    Commercial applications may include, but not be limited to, law enforcement.



    1.       Eshel, Tamir. OWL ammo will be all tracers but invisible to the enemy. 6 August 2014. Defense Update.

    2.       US Army engineers developing new one-way tracer round. Army Technology, 30 July 2014.

    3.       South, Todd. One-way tracers, spoof-proof artillery and other Army ammunition developments coming soon. 4 June 2019. Army Times.

    4.       MIL-DTL-50863F w / Amendment 5. 22 November 2021.


    KEYWORDS: Ammunition; tracer; luminescence; luminescent; OWL; 40mm; one-way

    TPOC-1: Matthew Bolen

    Email: [email protected]


    TPOC-2: David Keeler 

    Email: [email protected]

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