O-083 Insensitive Munition Design Principles

September 2003
Ian J. Powell (Mitigation Methods)

Munitions by their very nature present a number of hazards to the users. The explosive materials they contain are designed to provide a large amount of energy in a relatively small amount of time. In the case of tactical rocket motor propellants this time is in the order of a few seconds, whilst for high explosives the time is in the microsecond range. In normal operation, this energy is released in a controlled manner, when the user requires it. However, in an accident scenario, this energy can be released in a less predictable manner. Such a release of energy has the potential to cause significant damage and casualties both to the users as well as any collaterals. Although modern day armed forces place a high degree of emphasis on munitions safety, there have been a number of high profile accidents over the last few decades. In response to these accidents, several nations have or are in the process of developing munitions that are less vulnerable and give a less violent response when subjected to unplanned stimuli (e.g. accident scenarios). Such munitions are termed Insensitive Munitions (IM). These types of munitions have presented the designers with key challenges, many of which have been overcome with the use of innovative technology. The latter has been applied both retrospectively for existing munitions as well as being an integral to the design.

In common with best practice engineering design, the most efficient method of obtaining specific requirements in a given system is to ensure that the design incorporates the necessary features; i.e. they are an integral part of the system design. IM design is no different in this respect. Applying IM technology in a retrospective manner is possible but may be limited and potentially more costly over the service life of the munition.

This paper defines the key IM design axiom, describes the IM threats and presents a set of best practice guiding principles for IM design.

Presentation details

This paper was presented to the 21st International System Safety Conference held in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on 4-8 August 2003