Skip to comments.Explosives FYI
Posted on 10/27/2004 8:49:28 PM PDT by rennatdm
Semtex is clearly the explosive of choice by international terrorist groups for two reasons. First it is easily available and cost effective. It is considered by many to the best plastic explosive in the world. Semtex uses a crystalline high explosive, combined with a binder of a synthetic styrene-butadiene rubber binder which produces an odorless consistency of Silly Putty or Play Dough. Semtex was invented by Stanislav Brebera who studied at the Prague Technical University and Pragues Military Technical Institute and in 1950 at the Synthesia chemical company. Although plastic explosives were initially developed in 1887 by Alfred Nobel and later used in the Second World War; Semtex hit the world stage in 1966 with its introduction to Viet Nam by the Communist. Brebera had joined the Communist party in 1945 in Czechoslovakia.
Semtex got its name from Semtin, the village in East Bohemia where Brebera invented it. This extraordinarily stable compound of RDX (Cyclonite) and PETN (Penaerythrite Tetranitrate) slips through airport security scans as easily as a pair of nylons. According to the FBI, Semtex has an indefinite shelf life and is far stronger than traditional explosives such as TNT. It is also easily available on the black market. The Czech government has since taken control of the plant that produces Semtex in hopes of controlling the distribution but most security analyst see this as political window dressing after 9-11. It was revealed in 1989 that the Czechs had exported 900 tons of Semtex to Col. Moammar Qaddafi's Libya and another 1,000 tons to other unstable states, such as Syria, North Korea, Iraq, and Iran. Some experts now put worldwide stockpiles of Semtex at 40,000 tons. After the Lockerbie tragedy, Brebera added metal components and a distinct odor to make Semtex easier to detect. Although the Czech government officially monitors all Semtex sales, there has been a string of sales to Yugoslavia, Iraq, and North Korea.
Composition C is a plastic demolition explosive consisting of RDX, other explosives and plasticizers. It can be molded by hand for use in demolition work and packed by hand into shaped charge devices. Although compositions C-3 and C-4 are the only formulations presently being used, C-1 and C-2 may still be encountered.
My first exposure to Plastic Explosives came when I joined the Marine Corps in 1963 and had an opportunity to see a demonstration of Composition C-3 at Camp Pendelton. At the time, I was told Composition C-3 had the same uses of TNT but was more powerful and had the advantage of being easily molded for demolition. Over the years a lot has changed but its interesting to see a lot of things remain the same particularly when talking about the uses of plastic explosives.
TNT (Trinitrotoluene) is a constituent of many explosives such as amatol, pentolite, tetrytol, torpex, tritonal, picratol, ednatol, and composition B. It has been used under such names as Triton, Trotly, Trilite, Trinol and Tritolo. TNT is considered to be a stable high explosive and not easily susceptible to shock. TNT is typically used by the military in high explosive shells and bombs.
RDX (Cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine) is also known as cyclonite or hexogen. RDX is a white crystalline solid usually used in mixtures with other explosives, oils, waxes. It is one of the components used in the RPG-7 warhead. It is very stable and considered to be one of the most powerful military explosives. RDX compositions are mixtures of RDX, other explosive ingredients, and desensitizers or plasticizers. When combined with other explosives, RDX forms the basis for Composition A, Composition B, Composition C, HBS, H-6 and Cyclotol.
Composition A is a was-coated, granular explosive consisting of RDX and plasticizing was. Composition A is used by the military in land mines and 2.75 and 5 inch rockets.
Composition B consists of RDX and TNT and desensitizing agents are added. Composition B is used by the military in land mines, rockets and projectiles.
HBX 1 and HBX 3 are binary (have to be combined to form a reaction) explosives that are mixtures of RDX, TNT, powdered aluminum, and D-2 wax with calcium chloride. These explosives are used in missile warheads and underwater ordnance.
H-6 is a binary explosive that is a mixture of RDX, TNT, powered aluminum, and D-2 wax with calcium chloride added. H-6 is used by the military for general purpose bombs.
Cyclotol is manufactured in three formulations by varying mixture of percentages of RDX and TNT. Cyclotol is used for shaped-charge bombs, special fragmentation projectiles and grenades.
Ammonium Nitrate (fertilizer) The purpose of including Ammonium Nitrate in the discussion of Explosives is to point out that a domestic or international terrorist does not need to obtain any of the earlier mentioned sophisticated explosive compounds to create a major terrorist event. In October almost 200 people were killed in Bali by a bomb, experts believe to contain Ammonium Nitrate, and the Philippines have banned imports of the fertilizer to prevent it being used as a raw material to make bombs. Prior to September 11, the most destructive terrorist event in the United States occurred in 1995 with the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City which killed 168 men, women and children. It is generally believed that Timothy McVeigh used Ammonium Nitrate with 3 drums of nitro methane, a commercially available racing fuel.
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WOW! I would like to see all 40,000 tons go off all at once.
I witnessed the power of Ammonium Nitrate up close while helping a comercial explosives expert blow a rock for excavating. A coffee can full of the common fertilizer from a bag, primed with a cap and a pinch of plasticX blew the solid rock into boulders the size of small cars 4-6 feet off the ground.
Preferably in France.
When in the Army, we did a 300# Ammonium Nitrate detonation. Although we were about 400 yards away, the 5-ton truck bounced right off the ground due to ground shock. Then the clods of earth, the size of a torso were slamming into the ground up to half a mile away. It was pretty hairy there for a min or so.
Thanks for the article!
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