USA — Army approves safer explosive to replace TNT

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. — The U.S. Army recent­ly qual­i­fied a new explo­sive that has the same lethal­i­ty as tra­di­tion­al TNT, but is far less like­ly to explode if dropped, shot at or hit by a road­side bomb dur­ing trans­port.

During a slow cook-off test, the IMX-101-loaded projectile is exposed to high temperatures over an extended period. Instead of blowing up like traditional TNT, the explosive simply melts from the top of the artillery shell, similar to a volcano effect.
Dur­ing a slow cook-off test, the IMX-101-loaded pro­jec­tile is exposed to high tem­per­a­tures over an extend­ed peri­od. Instead of blow­ing up like tra­di­tion­al TNT, the explo­sive sim­ply melts from the top of the artillery shell, sim­i­lar to a vol­cano effect.
Pho­to Cred­it: Cour­tesy pho­to.
Click to enlarge

The new for­mu­la, called IMX-101 (Insen­si­tive Muni­tions Explo­sive 101), is sched­uled for deliv­ery to deployed Army and Marine Corps units in the form of 1,200 M795 artillery pro­jec­tiles as ear­ly as next year, as TNT sup­plies are even­tu­al­ly phased out. 

Numer­ous tests by the Picatin­ny team have proven that IMX-101 is a safer alter­na­tive to TNT in the Army and Marine Corps’ exist­ing large-cal­iber pro­jec­tiles, espe­cial­ly dur­ing trans­porta­tion, stor­age and loading. 

“If you were involved in an inci­dent near a tra­di­tion­al TNT pro­jec­tile hit with an RPG (rock­et pro­pelled grenade) or an impro­vised explo­sive device, you would­n’t be stand­ing here today to tell about it,” said Char­lie Patel, a pro­gram-man­age­ment engi­neer for Project Man­ag­er Com­bat Ammu­ni­tion Sys­tems here. “But with IMX-101, all that would hap­pen is the explo­sive would defla­grate (burn quick­ly), and the shell would break into a few pieces. You would­n’t have the big det­o­na­tion that would wipe out the vehi­cle and dri­ver or a whole stor­age area and crew.” 

“Because it’s less sen­si­tive, the Army can store more shells in a mag­a­zine, and store more in one build­ing at a clos­er dis­tance to the Sol­diers,” said Antho­ny Di Sta­sio, project offi­cer with the Arma­ment Research, Devel­op­ment and Engi­neer­ing Cen­ter, known as ARDEC here. “It sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduces the logis­tics bur­den both here in the U.S. and overseas.” 

The selec­tion of IMX-101 is part of an ongo­ing pro­gram at Picatin­ny to find low-cost, insen­si­tive muni­tions to meet require­ments set by the Depart­ment of Defense. Dur­ing the selec­tion process, the team test­ed and eval­u­at­ed 23 dif­fer­ent for­mu­las, sub­mit­ted by gov­ern­ment, for­eign and pri­vate competitors. 

IMX-101, devel­oped by BAE Sys­tems, was cho­sen as the win­ning for­mu­la because it was the most cost-effec­tive option that exceed­ed all sys­tem tests. 

“The sys­tem lev­el tests rep­re­sent real haz­ards and threats our Sol­diers face in com­bat,” Di Sta­sio said. “If in they are being attacked by RPGs (rock­et-pro­pelled grenades), then we fire our new sys­tem with RPGs to make sure it can hold up.” 

While the mate­r­i­al cost for IMX-101 is high­er than TNT, the price will fall as the Army pro­duces more quan­ti­ties in com­ing years, Di Sta­sio said. How­ev­er, he explained the real cost sav­ings will come with the improved logis­tics of the new explo­sive, which will cost a sig­nif­i­cant amount less than the Army cur­rent­ly pays to trans­port and store TNT

The sec­ond-place con­tender was a for­mu­la devel­oped by ARDEC. While this explo­sive, named IMX-102, also exceed­ed all sys­tem tests, it costs more to pro­duce than BAE’s IMX-101

How­ev­er, ARDEC’s for­mu­la still holds val­ue in oth­er muni­tions appli­ca­tions, as Picatin­ny engi­neers con­tin­ue to find new ways to incor­po­rate this tech­nol­o­gy into oth­er sys­tems to ulti­mate­ly save warfight­er lives. 

Unit­ed States Army News Ser­vice

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