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Normal Atmospheric Pressure
High performance explosives use this extreme force in several applications to defeat the target. For example, a shaped charge consists of an explosive that has an open area on the inside shaped like a cone. Upon detonation, the cone concentrates its energy into a point, increasing its power at that point. Some shaped charges contain metallic liners that are placed in the cone, which forms molten jets of metal that force their way through armor plating or other obstructions.
Another application for HPEs is in general purpose high explosive artillery rounds, which use small fragments from the metal case surrounding the explosive to damage or destroy a target. These weapons are used against personnel and non-armored targets in the open.
Mixed Properties of Explosives
Explosives have a variety of properties, some of which are not desirable. To attain maximum performance, HPEs are frequently mixed. Since some HPEs are very sensitive to initiation from shock, heat, static electricity, or decomposition, inert ingredients are added to alter the properties of HPEs to make them less sensitive and give them the desired physical properties.
Often the main challenge in creating high performance explosives is creating an explosive compound that has several opposing characteristics. If one were to create the perfect HPE, it would have the following characteristics:
1. Low cost production
This set of qualities, however, is difficult if not impossible to produce. Consequently, compromises are made in almost all formulations.
Not only do chemical compositions of explosives vary, but their physical forms can have many configurations. The application of the explosive is the driving factor in the physical form of the charge or warhead. Table 1 below illustrates some of the various processes used to make finished explosives.
Table 1: Physical Forms of Finished Explosives
Common Military Applications
A heated, liquefied explosive is poured into a mold or into the finished munition. A frequently used example is TNT.
RDX or HMX" combined with plastic or polymer binders. The Polymer) Bonded
PBX is poured into a finished munition and cures solid. Explosive (PBX)
Mixture of powdered explosives and plasticizers. They can be Putties
molded to a desired shape.
Explosives are combined with plasticizers or polymers and rolled Rubberized
into large sheets.
make a material that is extruded without heat and can fill the Extrudables
needed space. The resin is cured with heat to make the material
hold its shape. Source: Cooper, P., Kurowski, S., Introduction to the Technology of Explosives
What is a High Performance Explosive Component (HPEC)?
For the purposes of this assessment, an HPEC is a weapon or subassembly of a weapon that utilizes an HPE as its source of destructive power. Examples of HPECs are artillery shells, warheads for missiles, bombs, fuzes, detonators, etc. Some of these items (e.g., a fuze) use only small amounts of very sensitive HPEs. Other HPECs such as bombs or artillery shells use larger amounts of less sensitive HPEs.
In the case of an artillery shell, the HPEC is close to being a finished product. In other cases; however, as for a warhead for a guided missile, the HPEC (the warhead) is one of several subassemblies (rocket motor, electronics, fins) that make up the finished missile. In the missile example, the HPEC might not account for a significant portion of the total dollar value of the weapon.
Both HMX and RDX are high explosives used in numerous warhead applications.
HPE and HPEC Industry Descriptions
The HPE and HPEC industries are small. In 1998, the 33 organizations responding to BXA's survey had combined HPE and HPEC shipments of approximately $513 million and employed approximately 7,900 people. These organizations were located in 17 statts with the highest concentrations in California and Tennessee.
Many countries have some form of a munitions industry. Ammunition is a commodity that nations want to have an indigenous capability to produce. The differences around the world in HPEs and HPECs are in the quality and the technology of the final products. Many nations can manufacture unguided munitions, but the more advanced nations are the producers of precision munitions. U.S. companies sell munitions overseas by virtue of the technology and quality of their products.
Production of explosives and explosive components in the United States is divided between facilities owned (and in some cases operated) by the U.S. government and those operated by the private sector. The government-owned facilities were constructed before and during World War II and have the capacity to make large amounts of products. These plants have been used during times of prolonged conflict (World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War), but often this capacity has been underutilized or dormant during times of peace.
These facilities generally occupy larger tracts of land than those that are privately owned, since they frequently use and store greater quantities of explosive materials. These wartime resources are practically immobile, since the tracts of land on which they are located were purchased over 50 years ago and have developed histories of being granted the necessary environmental permits for the performance of HPE operations. Establishing such high-volume, wartime-essential plants on new grounds would be administratively and politically daunting.
Government-owned plants include both government-owned contractor-operated (GOCO) and government-owned government-operated (GOGO) plants. The eight governmentowned plants that currently produce munitions or munition components are:
Only two GOGOs exist. One is the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, which LAPS bombs for the armed services; the other is the Crane Army Ammunition Activity, which produces and refurbishes ammunition for the Army and the Navy. These two facilities
There are also government owned plants that are not active, but are kept in case of replenishment. There are also plants that are considered excess and will be transferred to new owners at some point in the future. were not surveyed during this assessment. The U.S. Army's Operations Support Command' oversees the operation of GOGO and GOCO facilities.
GOCOs currently operate at greatly reduced workloads compared to their total capacities. Nevertheless, they are, in some cases, the only plants capable of replenishing the supply of certain types of ammunition to the armed forces within three years of a major conflict, a requirement by the Department of Defense. Operations at reduced workloads have traditionally raised GOCOs' expenses and increased the cost of items produced at these plants.
Commercial and government-owned manufacturing facilities, regardless of their production volumes, occupy large tracts of land compared with other types of manufacturing. Working with explosives requires manufacturers to sufficiently separate buildings to prevent a detonation in one building from causing detonations in other buildings. Manufacturers must comply with quantity-distance (QD) regulations that govern how much explosive material can be stored in a building and how close it can be to other buildings.
GOCO facilities were built for high-volume production. They were constructed during World War II when high volumes of ammunition were required to satisfy the war effort. The manufacturing processes for GOCO plants are frequently automated to produce in volume. However, the plants often lack the flexibility to change their production lines quickly because production operations are focused on achieving high volume production of a limited set of products.
The contractor-owned contractor-operated (COCO) plants are often smaller and more agile producers than the GOCOs. As with the government plants, COCO facilities have seen orders for their products drop since the end of the Cold War. Generally speaking, COCOs can respond to market changes faster than GOCOs. BXA staff visited HPEC facilities that can be refitted quickly to meet the needs of the market. Some COCOs have installed equipment on rollers to rapidly reconfigure their production lines.
Despite such advantages in responding to changing markets, COCOs cannot manufacture items in the volume needed in wartime. In many instances, they cannot produce enough quantity to restore the U.S. stockpile of a particular munition to mandated levels after a conflict. Usually, the GOCOs and GOGOs are the only facilities that can fulfill this requirement.
GOCOs and COCOs often compete for the same orders. With the reduction in defense spending, there are fewer orders for these manufacturers to win. GOCOs, with the large overhead of their facilities, often are not price competitive compared to the smaller COCOs. On the other hand, COCOs often feel that military orders awarded to GOCOs are meant to keep GOCOs in business and are not awarded on the basis of best price per item. Private companies state that they are apprehensive about competing against government-owned facilities.
On October 12, 2000, the Industrial Operations Command (IOC) changed its name to the Operations Support Command (OSC)
Industry Classification and Selected U.S. Census Data
The HPE and HPEC industries fall within two subsections of the Census Bureau's Standard Industry Classification (SIC) system. SIC code 2892 identifies explosives. SIC code 3483 identifies ammunition 30 millimeters or greater in diameter, excluding small arms and including items such as artillery shells, torpedoes, and missile warheads (See Appendices B and C for full descriptions of both codes). This assessment utilizes Census data from SIC 3483 to augment survey data in the areas of employment and capital expenditures.
BXA decided not to use SIC 2892 data because it includes products that are not highperformance explosives used by the U.S. military (e.g., dynamite). Likewise, propellants such as black powder and nitrocellulose-based gunpowder are classified under SIC 2892. Census data for SIC 2892 would include a considerable amount of non-military items outside the scope of the BXA survey. Furthermore, this data would be inappropriate for statistical comparison with survey results for the exclusively high performance explosives industry.
BXA utilized SIC 3483 for this assessment because data from this selection method represents the HPEC industry and indirectly the HPE industry, consistent with the participant pool surveyed. SIC 3483 contains the product lines of manufacturers that load, assemble, and pack munitions. The SIC 3483 data accurately represents the HPEC industry and indicates trends and changes in the HPE industry.
The Holston Army Ammunition Plant (HSAAP)
The largest HPE manufacturing facility in the United States is HSAAP. Located in Kingsport, Tennessee, HSAAP is the primary source of military explosives in the United States. Constructed in 1942, it, like many ammunition plants, was built in response to World War II. According to the U.S. Army's Operations Support Command, HSAAP was built at the request of the British government. At its peak in World War II, HSAAP produced over 350 million pounds of explosives per year.
HSAAP can manufacture over seventy variations of the two most prolific base explosives in the U.S. inventory, HMX and RDX. These two HPEs are combined with other explosives or inert ingredients to make a wide variety of finished HPE compounds.
HSAAP's design allows for continuous processing of explosives in large quantities utilizing ten production lines. Continuous processing is not well suited to manufacturing small batch runs. Since the end of the Cold War, HPE requirements have dropped to only several million pounds per year. Manufacturing HPEs in small quantities when combined with high fixed operating costs caused higher per pound HPE prices. In response to price increases, program managers and weapons systems purchasers began to look overseas for alternative HPE sources. This migration of U.S. customers depressed
SIC 3483 does contain products that fall outside the charter of this study; however, such items (mortar fin assemblies, loading of propellant bags, etc.) are demand driven by the armed forces and can serve as a rough gauge for munitions.