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Publication numberUS3054349 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateSep 18, 1962
Filing dateMay 7, 1953
Priority dateMay 31, 1944
Also published asUS3109369
Publication numberUS 3054349 A, US 3054349A, US-A-3054349, US3054349 A, US3054349A
InventorsPlumley Harold J
Original AssigneePlumley Harold J
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Disposal of encased explosives
US 3054349 A
Abstract  available in
Previous page
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Claims  available in
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

Sept. 18, 1962 H. J. PLUMLEY 3,054,349

DISPOSAL OF' ENCASED EXPLOSIVES Original Filed May 3l, 1944 2 Sheets-Sheet 1 gym 22 /oA mlml "I nl Il HAROLD J. PLUMLEY A ORNEY Sept. 18, 1962 H. J. PLUMLEY 3,054,349

DISPOSAL OF ENCASED EXPLOSIVES Original Filed May 5l, 1944 2 Sheets-Sheet 2 z WM, g.


INVENTOR BY HAROLD J. PLUMLEY A ORNEY United States Patent C 2 Claims. (Cl. 1ll2 1) (Granted under Title 35, U.S. Code (1952), sec. 266) This invention relates to -the disposal of explosive-bearing ordnance by techn-iques involving either a simple burning of the explosive charge in air, the necessary oxygen being supplied by the air, and/or by a self-sustaining reductive reaction requiring no air or oxygen supply, and which may accordingly be elected under water. This application is a division of copending application Serial No. 538,173, tiled May 3'1, 1944.

An important object of the invention is to provide irnproved means whereby the explosive charges of bombs, mines, depth charges and other explosive-bearing ondnance may be removed in a quick, simple and el'licient manner, with the least possible risk of high order detonation.

Another object is to provide such means which requires, in order to effectuate the removal of t-he explosive charge, only relatively light, compact and easily portable apparatus, and which, further, involves the use of apparatus which may be operated from a safe distance and which may be set up without creating such mechanical disturbance or magnetic effect as might initiate an unwanted detonation in event the ordnance should be equipped with anti-magnetic and/ or anti-disturbance devices or the like.

While dangers and diiculties have been encountered in depotentiating such items of ordnance on land, the problems are greatly aggravated in dealing with underwater ordnance. In fact it has usually been considered impossible to render mines and the like safe under water otherwise than by detonating them. Attempts to move or raise a ground mine from the bottom usually result in its firing, since acoustic or magnetic anti-disturbance devices, or both, are usually present. Hydrostatic switches which fire the mine upon the decrease of water pressure which occurs vwhen it is raised are also very commonly litted. Although in principle a diver might render safe certain of the more simple ground mine devices under water, as by removing the detonator, blocking the hydrostatic switch, etc., the hazard of this work is obvious, and is prohibitive in a practical sense, because of the poor visibility and dicult working conditions, and the lack of complete access to the mine, which is usually partially -buried in the `sea bottom. Removal of the fuze or detonator, or both, may also be prevented by the inclusion of anti-withdrawal devices, and the removal of these devices may also be imp-ossible because of their inaccessible positioning, as indicated, particularly if the mine is imbedded in the sea bottom. Booby traps are also used to prevent disturbing these elements without tiring the mine. VWhen it is considered in addition that such mines are usually fitted with live acoustic devices arranged to cause the mine to lire in event of any substantial noise in the vicinity, it will be understood that rendering such mines safe, -by means entailing the performance of any 4substantial amount of manual work thereon, is virtually impossible.

Since Isorne of the same considerations obtain with respect to efforts to render harmless bombs, mines, etc., located above ground, it has become increasingly common practice to render them safe by removing the main charge. Above ground this may be done by steaming out the main charge, by the use or solvents, by washing out the charge, or by burning. Any of these procedures are impractical beneath the water.

The present invention also includes among its objects, therefore, the overcoming of the indicated difficulties, and the entirely safe destruction of explosive-bearing ordnance under the diilicult conditions outlined.

Another object of this invention is to provide such means involving a construction formed entirely of nonferrous materials, which may be loaded with non-magnetic thermit, so that danger of ring a mine or other explosive device equipped with magnetically responsive elements is eliminated.

Another object is to provide such a mechanism which is capable of withstanding the great thermal shock involved in the rapid development of a thermal gradient of about 4000 F. across the wall thickness of the unit, and the rapid cooling effect of the surrounding water.

Another object is to provide such a mechanism hawing delay means adapted to prevent the release of the thermit until approximately 15 seconds have elapsed after ignition of the charge, to insure that the thermit reacts with reasonable completeness before such reaction is stopped by release of the molten iron.

Still another object is to provide electric ignition means, and to protect the electrical lead-in and other means associated therewith against the high pressures which may be involved and which may be applied from either or both sides.

Still another object is to provide such a mechanism incorporated in a simple, unitary compact construction which is absolutely waterproof to depths of at least 200 feet, and which is capable of withstanding the considerable internal pressures developed during the reaction period. Still another object is to provide such a unit which is light in weight and which is in stable equilibrium when placed on a cylindrical or spherical surface underwater, and which is able to maintain itself in position under gravity and without special attaching means, under ordinary conditions.

Other objects and advantages will be apparent from the following description taken in conjunction with the drawings forming a part of the present disclosure.

In the drawing, in which like reference characters designate similar parts throughout the several views:

FIGURE 1 is a perspective view of a mine to which is shown attached a preferred means for initiating selfdestruction in accordance with the present invention;

FIGURE 2 is a vertical, substantially diametric crosssection of the initiating device, taken substantially on the line 2 2 of FIGURE 1 and looking in the direction of the arrow;

FIGURE 3 is a sectional detail taken substantially on the line 3 3 of FIGURE 2 and looking in the direction of the arrow;

FIGURE 4 is a perspective view of a bomb, together with rigging, and an initiating device supported by the rigging, such device being of somewhat modified construcl tion;

FIGURE 5 is a vertical substantially diametric sectional view taken substantially on the line 5 5 ofKFIG- URE 4 and looking in the direction of the arrow;

FIGURE 6 is a vertical substantially diametric crosssectional View of a unit constructed in accordance with the present invention and suitable for underwater use, showing the same in position upon a mine case, which is fragmentarily illustrated; and

FIGURE 7 is a view partly in top plan and partly in cross-section taken substantially on the line 7 7 of FIG- URE 6 and looking in the direction of the arrow.

I have found that if the high explosive charge contains aluminum or some other reducing agent, a slow, self-destructive reaction may be initiated under water as well as above ground, by exposing the charge to a temperature of about 2500" F. for a short time, and that furthermore, such self-destructive reaction will continue and spread throughout the charge, destroying it completely with no danger whatsoever of causing detonation of any part of the charge. The essential feature of this reaction is apparently the progressive reduction of the nitrated organic constituents of the explosive by the metallic aluminum. The solid end product is a porous ash, a typical sample of which has been found to be composed of 94% aluminum oxide and 6% carbon. Ammonia is prominent among the gaseous end products of the reaction. Apparently the necessary and sufficient condition of the initiation of this reaction is the presence in the high explosive of between 10 and 50% of any nely divided metallic reducing agent such as aluminum, magnesium or zinc. Aluminum is the most commonly used agent, and since the aluminizing of explosives for underwater ordnance results in such a wellestablished enhancement of explosive power, the use of such material will probably be continued, or at least the use of some comparable reducing agent which will afford the same possibility of destroying the charge by my irnproved method.

I have also found that non-violent self-destruction of explosives under water may be made to occur by another type of reaction which differs from the above described auto reduction in that it takes place in certain explosives which are entirely free of metallic reducing agents and the end products of which seem to be entirely gaseous, no ash whatever being left. This reaction is apparently a slow exothermic decomposition started by local heating of the charge, and it progresses automatically due to the heat yield of the reaction. Thus far it has been determined that the condition for the sub-surface auto-decomposition reaction in this manner is the presence in the explosive of either hexanitrodiphenylamine or cyclonite. This reaction also occurs without violence and with a rate of gaseous discharge which is entirely moderate.

In accordance with my preferred method, the case of the explosive-bearing ordnance is penetrated and charge ignition initiated, in a single operation, by allowing a pool or jet of molten iron, obtained from a thermit reaction, to contact or impinge upon the mine or bomb.

FIGURES l, 2 and 3 show a suitable thermit Crucible adapted to be used in air, by placing the same upon the case of the item of ordnance to be depotentiated. The thermit may be tired from a distance by means of a squib which is electrically operable. Preferably no magnetic materials are used in the construction of the crucible, and hematite base thermit is used, since it is non-magnetic, unless it is certain that the mine or other ordnance is so designed that it is not sensitive to magnetic materials, in which event black magnetite base thermit may be used, since it affords greater burning speed.

In the embodiment of FIGURES l, 2 and 3, a unitary thermit burning charge is housed in a container formed of a cylindrical tube 1 surrounded by a cylinder, 2, of T ransite or the like and closed at its upper end by a dished plate, 4, which carries centrally depending from its bottom a cupped container, 5, in which is housed a booster charge,I 7. A ring squib, 9, carried by the top plate, 4, projects into the booster, and is adapted to be connected as by the wire, 10, to electrical firing means, not shown, whereby the device may be fired from a safe distance. The container is closed on the bottom by a cupped reentrant wall, 12, fitted into the tube, 1, and preferably secured thereto by cement, to retain the thermit burning charge, 1S. An asbestos ring, 17, controls the area of the molten iron stream which is first discharged against the case, and the bottom wall delays for a `slight and desirable interval the access of the material to the case of the mine or other ordnance, allowing the thermit reaction to be well initiated before the material is released. If the assembly is formed of cylindrical tubular parts, in the manner indicated, it will be apparent that it will be stable when placed upon spherical surfaces within a wide range of radii and that the lower end of the container will make good contact with such surfaces. If the article to be de-armed, however, is of some other configuration, as in the case of the cylindrical mine illustrated, the gaps between the lower edges of the thermit unit and the mine case may be sealed as by means of a clay or sand pack to retain the molten iron for a sucient length of time.

When the unit is fired, the thermit reaction creates a pool of molten iron on top of the case, having an area of approximately 5() sq. in., which area of the case is heated to the melting point of iron, producing an opening roughly equal in area to the cross-section of the burning charge. It has been found, however, that this type of thermit unit is best used so as to allow the pool of liquid iron to form, that is, it should not be placed on the side of a mine, nor should it be supported above a mine, or placed on an object of curvature or radius so small as to allow some of the material to escape. The operation of such a unit further seems to be limited to steel case thicknesses of not greater than .25.

In order to perform a similar operation upon mines having thicker cases and/or different shapes, I have provided a modified technique which involves the use of a Crucible unit designed to discharge a greater quantity of molten iron, in a smaller stream, against the case to be entered. The construction of such a unit is illustrated in FIGURE 5, and a suitable manner of supporting it in operation is indicated in FIGURE 4. Preferably the vent of the crucible should be located from 2 to 4 inches above the surface or case, and somewhat off-center, so that the stream of iron will impinge on a sloping surface. For steel case thicknesses up to and including .375, a six to ten-pound thermit charge has been found to be adequate. As shown in FIGURE 5, the refractory crucible, 1A, is open at its top, the bottom being formed with a relatively small discharge opening, 20. The crucible may be enclosed in a sheet metal container as 2A, having a sheet metal bottom cap, 12A, adapted to be melted through after retaining the thermit material and molten iron until the reaction is well initiated. The firing squib, 9A, and booster charge, 7A, are indicated on top of the main charge, and as shown in FIGURE 5, the crucible assembly may be supported upon a simple scaffold generally designated 22. Electric leads, 10A, permitting operation from a safe distance may be connected to suitable electrical firing means (not shown).

When the charge is ignited, it first burns a hole in the bomb case and then enters the interior, igniting the explosive content. Explosive materials of the ordinary types used in ordinance burn relatively quietly when so ignited. If the charge contains aluminum or other metallic reducing agents, the reaction may, rather than an ordinary burning, consist of an auto reduction reaction with formaation of aluminum oxide and gas as mentioned above in connection with underwater disposal. If no reducing agent is present, as in the case of pure TNT, the material may be destroyed by straight burning at the orifice created in the case. The action is regenerative, that is, a part of the flame serves to heat the charge and the container, in turn maintaining volatilization of the explosive and feeding the flame.. This continues until the bomb or mine is completely empty or until the reaction is stopped by some sort of low order detonation- Such detonations may occur near the end of the burning, and usually, when the charge has been reduced to such proportions that danger of any substantial destruction by such detonation is virtually eliminated.

In the underwater embodiment of FIGURES 6 and 7, the cylindrical case, 1B, is preferably formed of insulating material having great resistance to thermal shock and considerable mechanical strength. The best material thus far found for this use in sold under the trade name Transitef Such material is also easy to fabricate and machine. Top and bottom closure plates, 4B, 12B, re-

spectively, may be bolted in place, as shown, to secure the thermit charge, 15B, which is preferably formed of non-magnetic hematite. The closure plates project radially beyond the remainder or" the casing and are perforated in vertical alignment, to receive supportingrods 22B. Rods 22B are pointed at their lower ends and project below the assembly to support the same, being adjustably attached by means of manually operable clamping screws 23B. An annular or refractory frustoconic bottom portion 17B, arranged directly above the bottom plate 112B,

defines the effective size of the discharge opening 20B. This opening is closed by a thin brass plate 13B which quicklyL burns through when the molten iron is discharged, additional delay being interposed by the use of a thin layer of slow-burning bonded thermit, 16B. It will be apparent that the thickness and characteristics of this layer may be varied to provide any desired delay.

A booster charge 7B, housed in a can 5B, is suspended in the thermit charge by means of a strap 25, an electrically operable iring squib, 9B, being arranged in the can 5B. The electrical connection to the squib is provided through the top plate, 4B, a pressure resistant connector, 24, being provided at this point having a suitable kterminal at its outer end to which the lead 16B may be connected as shown.

The development of unduly high internal pressures within the unit is prevented by the use of a simple oneway piston valve, consisting of a piston ele-ment, 27,

housed in cylinder, 29, connected to the top of the unit and communicating with the interior thereof via passage, 3u. A soft rubber gasket, 32, is arranged between the piston, 27, and the shoulder 31 formed by the counterbored portion of the. cylinder, 29, in which the piston is housed, the piston being tightly held against the cylinder by the cotter pin, 33 which is removed before ring, the piston thereafter being held in place by hydrostatic pressure. Alternatively, the piston, 27, and gasket, 32, may be cemented together, and against the shoulder, 31, space being left between the piston, 27, and Cotter pin, 33, and the tit of the piston being loose enough to permit escape of pressure therearound when it is unseated and the cement seal is broken.

The piston may be forced otl its seat by sutiicient internal pressure. In the arrangement lirst described, when the internal pressure rises suiciently, the piston is discharged from the opening and entrance of sea water is prevented during the reaction by the continuous gaseous discharge.

In operation, the device is simply positioned upon the mine or other device to be entered, and tired from a safe distance. The unit generates a pool of molten iron, as Will be readily apparent, and releases it in a jet against the case upon which the device is positioned. The molten iron melts its way into the interior of the case and initiates the above described reaction, which progresses until the explosive charge is destroyed.

In view of the fact that acoustically operable mines, which might be detonated by the firing of the squib and booster of my mechanism, are usually also equipped with anti-countermining devices arranged to prevent detonation if the noise is in the form of a suiiiciently loud report, I preferably also iire a detonator or other small quantity of explosive simultaneously, to actuate the anticountermining means. This supplemental, paralyzing charge, not shown in the drawings, may of course be fired against or close to the mine by the same Wiring and electrical means, its squib being simply connected in parallel with the squib 9, 9A or 9B.

It will be apparent that when the technique herein described is used, it is not necessary for personnel to be near the explosive ordnance for more than a very short length of time. Neither is it necessary to disturb the mine or bomb, so that danger of accidental detonation is virtually eliminated.

The invention herein described may be manufactured and used by or for the Government of the United States of America for governmental purposes without the payment of any royalties thereon or therefor.

l I claim:

1. A device for disposing of encased explosives comprising a tubular member, a cylinder coaxially surrounding said tubular member, a dished plate constituting a closure for one end of said cylinder and tubular member, a cupped container carried by and in depending relation with respect to said plate, a booster charge carried within said cupped container, a firing squib carried by said plate and partially disposed within said booster charge, an inverted kcup shape re-entrant wall member constituting a closure for the other end of said cylinderk and tubular member, a portion of said wall member being disposed within said tubular member for retaining a thermit charge, a ring of heat resistent material secured to said wall member, and spacing means for maintaining said wall member at a predetermined distance from and externally of the casing of an encased explosive whereby said ring of heat resistent material connes the size of stream of molten iron to be emitted against the casing of the encased explosive, and said wall member etectively delays the emission of molten iron until the thermit reaction is well initiated.

2. A device for disposing of encased explosives comprising, in combination, a container composed of refractory material, a closure plate for one end of the container, a substantially cup-shaped member carried by and depending from said closure plate, a main charge of :thermit disposed between the Walls of said cup-shaped member and said container, a booster charge carried within said cupshaped member and in surface contact with said closure plate, a tiring squib partially disposed within said booster charge and extending through and maintained in tiring position by snug engagement with said closure plate, said main charge occupying space within the container entirely below and to the side of said cup-shaped member; and a meltable wall member at the other end of said container for retaining said main charge within the container until a predetermined temperature is attained by the burning of the main charge, said wall member having a concave bottom surface and extending upwardly into the container, and means for externally spacing said wall member from the casing of an encased explosive.

References Cited in the tile of this patent UNITED STATES PATENTS 745,981 Wheeler et al. Dec. 1, 1903 1,299,869 Steinmetz Apr. 8, 1919 2,391,242 Hurrey Dec. 18, 1945 2,417,592 Dwyer Mar. 18, 1947 FOREIGN PATENTS 212,357 Great Britain Mar. 13, 1924

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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US3173364 *Mar 24, 1962Mar 16, 1965Military Training Device CompaAmmuntion safety device
US3724372 *Oct 30, 1963Apr 3, 1973Us NavyPyrojet cutter for underwater or land use
US4046055 *Jul 18, 1975Sep 6, 1977The United States Of America As Represented By The Secretary Of The ArmyApparatus for safely neutralizing explosive devices
US4372213 *Mar 30, 1981Feb 8, 1983The United States Of America As Represented By The Secretary Of The NavyMolten metal-liquid explosive method
US4727789 *Jun 24, 1986Mar 1, 1988T & E International, Inc.Vented suppressive shielding
US4942820 *Jul 18, 1989Jul 24, 1990Sawruk Stephen DFragmentation device
US6553911 *Apr 30, 1997Apr 29, 2003Erico International CorporationExothermic reactions and methods
US6703578Feb 10, 2003Mar 9, 2004Erico International CorporationExothermic reactions and methods
US6835910Jan 27, 2003Dec 28, 2004Erico International CorporationWelding apparatus and method
US9423224 *Jun 27, 2013Aug 23, 2016Exquadrum, Inc.Kinetic fireball incendiary munition
US20150241185 *Jun 27, 2013Aug 27, 2015Exquadrum, Inc.Kinetic fireball incendiary munition
U.S. Classification102/364, 102/306, 102/351
International ClassificationB63G7/00, F42B33/06, F42B3/00, F42B33/00, B63G7/02
Cooperative ClassificationB63G7/02, F42B33/06, F42B3/00
European ClassificationB63G7/02, F42B33/06, F42B3/00