O-096 A Review of Thermobarics, Solid Fuel Air Explosives (SFAE) and Reactive Metals

December 2004
Pascal Marchandin (Warheads & Fuzes), Duncan Watt (Energetic Materials)

The evolutionary development of melt-cast and PBX explosive technologies is continuing to allow the introduction into service of insensitive munitions (IM), with similar or slightly improved performance to conventional systems. The development of IM has progressed greatly in the last 10 years, with IM now becoming the norm for advanced missiles, mortars, torpedoes, bombs and general ordnance. For specific applications and target sets, revolutionary developments are needed to provide enhanced terminal effectiveness. In order to provide for high blast, low collateral damage warheads, much interest has been focused on the development of thermobaric systems. Thermobaric systems, which are sometimes classed as volumetric weapons, have been, and continue to be developed and introduced into service. The former Soviet Bloc has fielded this class of weapons since around the late 1980s. It is only more recently that the western ammunition researchers have accelerated development of this class of munition.

In this paper, a brief introduction will be given to Thermobaric weapons. The general principle of volumetric systems, and the enhancement in terminal effectiveness that this class of weapon can provide, specifically to enclosed targets such as bunkers or caves, will be presented.

A summary will be provided into the development of the various categories of Thermobaric systems. A selection of the weapons systems that are under development or have been fielded will be briefly discussed. The explosive compositions for the systems, including liquid, gelled and solid compositions will be discussed, along with recent advancements in the related areas of reactive metals, nano-particle technology and Metastable Intermolecular Composites (MICs). Finally, issues regarding potential hazards with handling and manufacture of these classes of systems will be discussed.

Presentation details

This paper was presented to the IM & EM Technology Symposium held on 15-17 November 2004 in San Francisco, CA, USA