The United States Armed Forces have been exploring alternative methods of dealing with unexploded ordnance (UXO) practice bombs such as the Bomb Dummy Unit (BDU)-33 that contain spotting charges. These spotting charges contain primers, a propelling charge, and a smoke charge. There are hundreds of thousands of these bombs at bombing ranges throughout the United States. The explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) community estimates the dud rate of these bombs to be upwards of 20 percent. This means that when removing these items from a range, every bomb has to be examined, both visually and by probe, to determine if it has functioned as designed. If it has not functioned, the item must be rendered inert, usually by detonation of a countercharge. Problems with assuring 100 percent detection and segregation of dud practice bombs, along with problems related to present inerting practices (kickouts, failure to detonate) mean that the costs to deal with these practice bombs are high and are climbing higher as environmental constraints tighten. A new, low cost, safe, and environmentally acceptable method of simultaneously destroying the propelling charge and the smoke charge is required.
The objective of this demonstration was to validate the UXBaseSM process for the disposal of BDU-33 practice bombs. UXBaseSM is a process that uses base hydrolysis to treat and destroy propellant and explosive residues on range-derived scrap and other materials.
This demonstration involved gathering and processing of BDU-33 practice bombs, and the characterization and disposal of their by-products including scrap metal, spent liquids, and any entrained soil on the practice bombs. The demonstrators used the Barry M. Goldwater Range, Arizona as the venue for this demonstration.
Overall the process failed to achieve its objectives in this demonstration. The failure was due to the inability of the caustic fluid to penetrate certain blockages of some dropped, but still live, BDUs so that the propellant was not always destroyed. The fact that propellant does remain in some cases means that inspection would be required to verify that the process has worked as intended for each and every BDU treated, which largely negates the projected cost savings from the process, and does not decrease the hazards associated with recycling BDUs over the present practice.
This demonstration showed that the technology cannot be successfully implemented in its present configuration. The technology would need to be modified and successfully demonstrated prior to its use on munitions response sites.