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The Preparatory Manual of Explosives

The Preparatory Manual of Explosives

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Published by: mighele on May 14, 2010
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As one might expect, the power of explosives is severe, but it is more severe then most people would realize. High explosives
such as HMX, RDX, TNT, tetryl, HNS, picric acid, TATB, PETN, and nitroglycerine generate tremendous force upon
detonation. This force, or energy is capable of causing great destruction. The destructive force is divided into three main
categories: (A) Direct shattering; (B) Indirect shattering; and (C) Concentration Force.
(A) Direct shattering
, is used in mining and demolitions operations, either commercial or military. A primary example is as
follows: It is achieved by drilling holes into a structure, either rock, concrete or the like, and then filling the holes with
explosive. Upon detonation, the pressure waves produced exert tremendous force upon the surrounding media, causing a direct
shattering effect. The exposed media is shattered into different pieces. This is the foundation of mining, and certain demolitions
operations. A military example of (A) is as follows: A cruise missile with a special penetrating warhead penetrates several
layers of walls, to end up detonating in the center of the building. Once again, the detonation produces severe force upon the
inward walls of the building, causing a great shattering effect; the result is massive damage to the interior of the building.
Another example would include an anti-ship missile, which utilizes not only (A), but (C) as well. An anti-ship missile is
capable of penetrating the hull of a ship using a shape charge, where by a secondary high explosive charge detonates within the
ship. The penetration of the hull, and corresponding secondary blast is devastating and is capable of splitting the ship in half, or
causing enough damage to sink the ship.
(B) Indirect shattering, is the primary use of explosives, and is encountered very frequently in wartime. The most common of
these explosives include: artillery shells, mortars, bombs, missiles, land mines, and grenades. Such munitions are used in large
quantities to bomb large areas, and for suppressing enemy movements. These munitions produce the same energy as the
examples in (A), but because they are usually detonated on the surface of objects, walls, and surfaces, the surrounding
environment is not shattered in the effect found in direct shattering. In the examples of (A), the great shattering effect is
primarily attributed to tremendous pressures created by the detonation of the explosives in close containment. In essence, the
detonations of indirect shattering are not “contained” as such, and therefore the energy released has the ability to expand and
spread out much more efficiently then those of direct shattering. In a simple example, when we detonate 1 pound of TNT on
the surface of a concrete wall (1 foot thick) the result is little damage to the concrete wall (overall some mild concaving, mild
& shallow fracturing, carbon deposition, mild chipping, and with no penetration of the wall). However, if we where to drill a
hole into this same wall, and place the same 1 pound of TNT, the detonation would definitely shatter the wall producing a
visible hole. It should be noted that this example only includes 1 pound of TNT. If we were to use more TNT for indirect
shattering, the damage to the wall would be much greater—depending on the mass and type of explosive used. Artillery shells,
mortar bombs, aerial bombs, and the like use much larger quantities of explosive ranging from 15 pounds to a massive 2000
pounds—as a result, the indirect shattering effect is largely dependant on the amount of explosive used. 2000 pounds of high
explosive under indirect shattering is capable of leveling most buildings—with the exception of very large buildings, i.e., the
Sears Tower, Madison Square Garden, the former World Trade center, ect., ect., these examples would require quantities
raging from 3000 to 5000 pounds of explosive under direct shattering for demolition.
(C) Concentration force, is the most powerful form of explosives, and is primarily used solely for penetration purposes. This
type of force uses what are called shape charges, other wise know as hollow charges. Shape charges are divided into two
categories: (1) hollow charges, and (2) linear charges. (1) Hollow charges are the most common concentration force devices,
and are used extensively in anti-tank, anti-ship, and many types of munitions. Hollow charges (anti-tank munitions) are very
common, and their concept and use dates back to the early 1900’s in France—from where they were invented. Hollow charges
are called as such, because of the degree of shaping employed to the explosive body. In essence, a hollow charge is composed
of a moderately thick walled metallic cone, usually of copper, placed on the inward walls of the explosive body—the explosive
body is shaped to adhere to this metallic cone. When the explosive is detonated, using a simple detonator or booster, the energy
or matrix formed propagates forwards, and instead of a pressure wave developing, the energy of the matrix is concentrated into
a super fine jet. This concentration of energy is formed by the inverted motion of the metallic cone as the matrix applies force
to it. As this metallic cone gets inverted by the matrix’s energy, a super fine jet of energy is produced. This super fine jet of
energy is composed of super heated gas and solid particles with a forward motion. The forward motion of this super fine jet is

Chapter 2: Laboratory techniques, and procedures


capable of reaching speeds in excess of 30,000 miles per hour (48,280 kilometers per hour). The forward motion of this fine jet
(other wise known as a “high energy jet”), is composed of roughly 80% of the total energy release of the explosive body, and is
capable of penetrating in known substance (with the exception of reactive armor). The penetration ability is dependent on the
exact shape of the explosive charge and its mass. In an example, 1 kilogram of Composition B in the form of a proper hollow
charge can penetrate a 15 to 20 millimeter diameter hole through 305 millimeters (12 inches) of solid reinforced homogenous
steel. Overall, RDX, TNT, DINA, HNIW, and Methylnitramine are the most common high explosives used in shape charges;
however most secondary explosives can be used with satisfactory results.
(2) Linear shape charges are shaped and work in the same manner as hollow charges, but their horizontal length ranges from 1
inch up to 25 feet or more in length. Linear shape charges are extremely valuable for demolition work, and they save millions
of dollars in demolition costs, and hundreds of hours in manpower. In a specific example, a linear shape charge 16 inches long
composed of 1 pound of high explosive can cut through a steel beam 1 ½ inch thick, 4 inches by 4 inches. Note: Reactive
armor is composed of a 2 or 3-inch thick sheet of plastic explosive, which is sandwiched between two steel plates—the steel
plates are usually several inches thick. How the reactive armor works is simple; for example, when an anti-tank hollow charge
impacts the outer steel plate of the reactive armor, the high-energy jet produced upon detonation, penetrates the outer steel
plate, and makes contact with the center layer of plastic explosive. The high-energy jet is capable of detonating this center layer
of plastic explosive, which it does. The detonation of the plastic explosive, and the resulting pressure wave, absorbs the
incoming high-energy jet—this is the basis behind reactive armor, and the protection of armored vehicles against anti-tank

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