Service ammunition. Ammunition for combat use.
This ammunition is approved for service use. It
contains explosives, pyrotechnics, or chemical agent
filler. The propellant, if required, is of service or
reduced charge weight. Service ammunition is also
called tactical ammunition.
Warhead. The part of ammunition containing the
materials intended to inflict damage. The explosives in
warheads are called the payload.
Airborne stores. Items that are NOT normally
separated from the aircraft in flight. A partial list of
these items includes tanks, pods, and non-expendable
training weapons. Targets, racks, launchers, adapters,
and detachable pylons are also included.
What aircraft equipment uses cartridge-
active devices (CADs)?
Define the term incendiary.
What are airborne stores?
LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Recognize
the fundamental concepts of explosives,
the potential hazards associated with
weapons, and the identification and
marking of ammunition.
You should know the difference between an
explosive and an explosion. An explosive is a material
that is capable of producing an explosion by its own
There are many definitions of an explosion. Dr.
Tenney L. Davis gave us the only simple definition: an
explosion is "a loud noise and the sudden going away of
things from the place where they have been." Another
definition states "an explosion is a rapid and violent
release of energy, not necessarily involving an
explosive substance." For example, in the explosion of
a boiler, the water is not an explosive substance.
In this chapter, an explosion is defined as "a
chemical decomposition or transformation, with the
growth of heat and the formation of decomposition
products, sometimes producing gas." All explosives in
military use produce gas, so this definition is correct,
though a chemist might not agree.
If ammunition is to function at the time and place
desired, you must use the right type of explosives. Each
has a role, either as a propellant or as a bursting charge.
Explosives suitable for one purpose may be entirely
unsatisfactory for another. For example, the explosive
used to burst forged steel projectiles is unsuitable for
ejecting and propelling the projectile. Normally, the
more sensitive the explosive, the smaller the amount
used. Similarly, the explosives used in initiators, such
as primers and fuzes, are so sensitive to shock that only
a small quantity can be used safely.
HIGH AND LOW EXPLOSIVES
explosiveshigh explosives and low explosives. Each
is classified according to its rate of decomposition.
High and low explosives may be further classified by
their reaction, composition, or service use. However,
only the two general classes, high and low, are covered
in this chapter.
High explosives are usually nitration products of
organic substances. They may contain nitrogen and
inorganic substances or mixtures of both. A high
explosive may be a pure compound or a mixture of
several compounds. Additives, such as powdered
metals, plasticizing oils, or waxes, provide desired
stability and performance characteristics.
A high explosive is characterized by extremely fast
decomposition called detonation. A high explosive
detonates almost instantaneously. The detonation is
similar to a very rapid combustion or a rupture and
rearrangement of the molecules themselves. In either
case, gaseous and solid products are produced. The
disruptive effect of the reaction makes some explosives
valuable as a bursting charge. This bursting effect
prevents its use in ammunition and gun systems
because the gas pressures formed could burst the barrel
of a weapon.
Low explosives are mostly solid combustible
materials that decompose rapidly but do not normally
explode. This action is called
ignition and decomposition, gas pressures develop to
propel something in a definite direction. Ammunition,
gun systems, and some missiles use this type of
explosive. The rate of burning is an important
characteristic, which depends on such factors as
combustion gas pressure, grain size and form, and
composition. Under certain conditions, low explosives
may react in the same manner as high explosives and