Navy's new explosive material makes bangs five times bigger

The Navy, being the Navy, is never satisfied with the amount of blowy-uppyness demonstrated by its weapons. The Office of Naval Research has come up with a new material that turns the structural casings of things like missiles and artillery shells into explosives, increasing their destructive power by a factor of five.

There's a bunch of weight and volume used up inside a missile that doesn't actually accomplish anything besides holding the missile together. This is important, obviously, but the Office of Naval Research (ONR) has managed to concoct a substance that can be used as the structural component (like the frame or outer skin of a missile) but can also be detonated. It's called a high-density reactive material (HDRM), and it's made of metals and polymers and is about as strong as aluminum with the density of steel, perfect for building a weapon around.

The added destructive capability makes the chances of a "catastrophic kill" much more likely, which the ONR says makes for a more efficient weapon:

Clifford Bedford, a researcher involved in the development of the new material, explained its advantages over existing weapons. "In the case of a steel missile you explosively launch it, it goes through the target and all the kinetic energy is dissipated into the target," he said. "With the reactive material missile, you have the same explosive launch - however, it disintegrates within the target and liberates chemical energy, and this chemical and kinetic energy combined gives you the enhanced effect. It saves a great deal of cost if you can take out the target with one missile versus three."

That's great, except that at the moment, the new material costs four times more that a conventional casing does. Oh well. The other upside is that somehow this "catastrophic kill" capability makes HDRM weapons less likely to hurt innocent bystanders. Something about being able to focus the explosive or something, reducing shrapnel I guess. But honestly, I don't see how an explosion that's an extra five times bigger is going to be good for anyone who's anywhere near it when they shouldn't be.

More tests of HDRM systems are scheduled for next month, and if they go well, this material could start "enhancing" weapons all the way from naval artillery shells to grenades and bullets.

ONR, via BBC

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