News | Oct 31, 2018

Pipe bombs safely disabled with Navy’s low-speed disruptor

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News Article Image of Pipe bombs safely disabled with Navy’s low-speed disruptor

A steel pipe bomb constructed from cheap, commercially available components, including gunpowder and cannon fuse, was rendered safe by Malmstrom Air Force Base's Explosive Ordnance Disposal team in 2008.

C.J. Reeves/Air Force

A team of experts from the U.S. Navy and FBI has designed a new tool for disabling the type of 2-inch steel pipe bombs built by criminals and terrorists in the United States.

The team’s invention is an advancement in percussion-activated non-electric (PAN) disruptors, which disable bombs on scene by shooting through the bomb’s casing and components with a metal penetrator, while the bomb squad stays away at a safe distance.

On September 4, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued patent 10,066,916 to the Navy’s EOD Technology Division at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Indian Head, Maryland. The patented device’s legal name is the Low Impact Threat Rupture Device for Explosive Ordnance Disruptor.

The novel design improves upon the existing PAN disruptors by increasing the penetrator’s weight up to two pounds by lengthening its shaft and lowering the projectile velocity from 2,000 feet per second down to below 500 feet per second using low-velocity blank cartridges.

The combination of increased weight, slow speed, and the addition of a 3-inch wide chisel head allowed a prototype penetrator to pierce and disable a 2-inch diameter steel pipe bomb without creating a shock wave or compressive heating that can inadvertently cause detonation.

“The dramatically increased length of the shaft portion of the novel projectile was proven to be ideal for steel pipe bombs and rupture and defeat other kinds of (improvised explosive devices),” according to the patent. “Testing has verified that lowering the velocity of a PAN projectile and increasing its mass and length can dramatically reduce the likelihood of ignition of IEDs and eliminate detonation of smokeless powder inside IEDs.”

Senior Airman Alicia Goodner, 28th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal operator, positions a percussion actuated non-electric (PAN) disruptor onto a suspicious package during training at Ellsworth Air Force Base. PAN disrupters are designed to remotely disrupt explosive devices. (Corey Hook/Air Force)

With the patent issued, TechLink, the Department of Defense’s national partnership intermediary for technology transfer, is seeking to match the design with a business or entrepreneur who can offer it as a product for military or civilian customers.

Brian Metzger, senior technology manager at TechLink, is in contact with the Navy laboratory and has begun reaching out to companies in the explosives disposal market space.

“As we saw in the news last week, there’s a need for EOD technologies with this specific capability,” Metzger said. “With the design having been tested, and some knowledge of disruptors, I think the right business could bring this to market quite quickly.”

Brian Metzger can be contacted by email at brian.metzger@montana.edu or at telephone number 406-994-7782.