STRATEGIC WEAPONS

Army Develops Stable Substitute for TNT

2/1/2011
By Eric Beidel
Move over TNT, the Army has developed a new explosive mixture that officials say will save lives.

It took engineers at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., four years to come up with Insensitive Munitions Explosive 101, or IMX-101, which experts say is more thermally stable than TNT. Projectiles containing IMX-101 are less likely to explode if dropped, shot at or hit by a roadside bomb during transport. The solution contains dinitranisole, nitrotriazalone and nitroguanidin, the latter of which is also used in insecticides.

“The formulation is currently being aluminized for application in general purpose bombs as a further effort to eliminate TNT from all munitions,” said James Rutkowski, energetics chief at Picatinny.

It will take many years before TNT can be phased out. In the meantime, the Army proposes to use TNT-filled shells in training and push IMX-101 projectiles forward for use by troops in theater. The new mixture has been approved for the Army’s M795 projectile and M1122 training projectile. The service will field its first munitions containing the new explosive this year.

Projectiles containing IMX-101 will not chain react; if one detonates, the rest will not. If hit by a grenade or homemade bomb, the explosive burns quickly and its shell breaks into a few pieces. TNT would blow up in the same situation, Rutkowski said.

The new explosive is produced at the Holston Army Ammunition Plant in Tennessee and costs $8 per pound. While TNT is $2 less per pound, it is manufactured outside of the United States.

“Besides eliminating dependency on foreign sources, larger quantities of IMX-101 can be safely transported and stored in the same area and transportation savings can be realized,” Rutkowski said.

The Army and the Marine Corps plan to use more than 3 million pounds of the new explosive annually.

Topics: Strategic Weapons