O-017 NIMIC: An International Cooperation for Less Vulnerable Munitions

November 1994
Marc Défourneaux (Project Manager)

The IM Philosophy:

Throughout centuries, accidents due to the storage, transportation and implementation of munitions used to be considered an inevitable consequence of their nature. Similarly, an ever-increasing sensitivity of energetic materials was accepted as the inevitable drawback of their increasing performance.

This does not mean that safety was ignored: munition safety issues have been dealt with for many years - essentially to protect civilian goods and lives - within individual nations and international organizations, up to the level of the UN which endeavors to define worldwide hazard divisions concerning the transportation of dangerous goods. More in-depth work is carried out within smaller organizations, in particular within two NATO groups:

  • AC/310 (Group on Safety and Suitability for Service of Munitions and Explosives);
  • AC/258 (Group of Experts on the Safety Aspects of Transportation and Storage of Military Ammunition and Explosives).

However, the primary mission of a munition is not to be safe but to be efficient: on the battlefield, a lack of performance may constitute a still higher risk than a lack of safety, even though it is easier to count the casualties due to the latter than to the former. This is why a certain fatalism kept prevailing over the years.

Then an important change began in the 1970s, when this fatalism started being questioned, thus leading to a new concept of munitions which combined a higher safety with the required level of performance. These munitions were given various names:

  • in French, MURAT (MUnitions à Risques ATténués);
  • in English, LOVA (LOw Vulnerability Ammunition) or IM (Insensitive Munitions).

The generally acknowledged reason for this evolution is the occurrence of several severe accidents. However, similar accidents had already occurred in the past without causing such effects, so there is an additional reason why the IM philosophy only began in the 1980's: the fact that, thanks to technology progress, it now appeared possible to find acceptable tradeoffs at an acceptable cost between safety and performance.

Le NIMIC: Une coopération internationale pour des munitions à risques atténués

Durant des siècles, les accidents dû au stockage, au transport et à la mise en œuvre de munitions ont été considérés comme la conséquence inévitable de la nature de ces munitions, de même que l'on acceptait un constant accroissement de la sensibilité des matières énergétiques comme la contrepartie inévitable de l'accroissement de leur performance.

Contact us for more information

Munitions Transport and Storage Safety TSO
United Kingdom
+32 2 707 5426
Matthew Ferran
Munitions Systems TSO
United Kingdom
+32 2 707 55 58