Executive Summary

The intent of this one week course of instruction is to equip the participant with first-hand knowledge of explosives that represent the potential of criminals and terrorists. Through lecture, lab synthesis and hands-on testing, participants will learn the requisite steps to construct an explosive train. Various methods and mixtures will be used to provide a comprehensive knowledge of multiple techniques and their precursors. participants will not gain any certification pertaining to explosives or response rather a significantly enhanced understanding that will aid them in their current role in the participant community.

Course Syllabus

Day 1:

  • Introduction: A brief explanation of the purpose and scope of this course and chemistry fundamentals.
  • Terms: participants will learn vernacular used in organic chemistry related to the classification of chemicals and processes used to synthesize various compounds.
  • Safety: Safety is paramount when working with hazardous chemicals that alone present a health hazard and when combined can explode. Rules and best practices for handling hazardous chemicals and emergency actions will be discussed and monitored throughout the course.
  • Threat Briefing: Both domestic and transitional tactics, techniques and procedures used by criminals and terrorists will be presented based on case histories and first-hand accounts when possible. Many of the explosive compounds discussed will be mixed or synthesized later in the course.
  • Synthesis Demonstration: synthesis of primary explosives requires strict adherence to safety standard operating procedures. Instructors will conduct demonstrations of the processes to create TATP and HMTD in a cooking show format. The process will begin but not completed, rather the end product synthesized earlier, will be shown and used for other training. This is intended to make best use of time since the processes require prolonged mixing. participants will synthesize erythritol tetranitrate (ETN).
  • Sensitivity Testing: Since explosives have different types of sensitivity to various stimuli, participants will test small quantities of primary explosives with flame, impact and acid. In the impact test participants will use a hammer and anvil to strike very small quantities of TATP, HMTD, and flash powder.
  • Desensitization: In order to prepare participants to mitigate, transport, or safely handle primary explosives, participants will see the effect of the addition of water, alcohol and acetone.
  • Phlegmization: Terrorists understand that adding lubricants allow certain primary explosives to be desensitized and used in large quantities as a secondary charge. participants will apply some of the common phlegmizers to TATP and test the effects.

Day 2:

  • Instrumentation: Determining the best method of field testing and analysis can be challenging during an inter-agency response. The participant will understand the strengths, weaknesses and best practices for sample collection and preparation. Through greater understanding of these elements, the participants will be prepared to make the appropriate decisions during and incident. The detection and identification technologies that will be covered are: Ion Mobility Mass Spectroscopy (IMMS), Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectroscopy (GCMS), Fourier Transform Infared Spectroscopy (FTIR) and Raman.
  • Sprengel Explosives: Most fuel oxidizer mixtures fall into the generic category of Sprengel explosive. These mixtures rely heavily on oxygen balance and the interaction of the fuel and an aggressive oxidizer. participants will apply previous lessons on stoichiometry to develop the optimum fuel to oxidizer ratio. The behavior of fuels and oxidizers to flame and acid will demonstrate reactivity and safety considerations during an incident.
  • Urea Nitrate: Synthesis of urea nitrate will be conducted using fertilizer grade and urea solution used to reduce emissions in diesel engines. Urea nitrate (UN) is used extensively by terrorists throughout the world. Additionally, participants will learn first hand the difference between theoretical and actual yield through making UN.

Day 3:

  • Sprengel Explosives Field Experiments: Based on real-world experience and commonly discussed mixtures in social media, participants wil test the ratios of lean, optimal and rich mixtures. Each 10oz. mixture will be tested by blasting cap initiation and select mixtures will be tested for initiation by gunfire. Ammonium nitrate and potassium chlorate will be mixed with fuels such as: diesel, gasoline, automatic transmission fluid, cooking oil, icing sugar, nitromethane, aluminum, petroleum jelly and paraffin wax. Ratios will range from 5% to 20%.

Day 4:

  • Unconventional Initiation: Terrorists adapted their techniques to reduce or eliminate metallic signatures through the use of exothermic chemical reactions. participants will mix hypergolics at a safe distance to observe the reaction rate and output. Hypergolic mixtures will include potassium permanganate, calcium hypochlorite, DOT 3 brake fluid, glycerin, potassium chlorate with icing sugar and acid. Additionally, Armstrong's mixture will be mixed from elements of match boxes. participants will observe the ignition threshold from hot wires and acid for various combinations of pyrotechnics.

    In order to compare the power output of an unconventional initiation system to standard blasting caps, two tests will be preformed. Lead plate tests and detonating cord will provide a quantitative and qualitative measure of the feasibility of these initiation systems.

Day 5:

  • Effects: participants will prepare explosive configurations representative of current threats to include: suicide vests, vehicle borne explosive device using the urea nitrate synthesized earlier in the week, surface and sub-surface detonations, and pressure cookers in different orientations.
  • Dynamic Tool Attacks: Approved participant provided devices will conduct dynamic tool attacks against explosive mixtures identified as high output and/or high sensitivity from earlier tests. Dynamic tools will be selected by the participants from different classes of tools. Linear water shaped charge, general disruption/overpressure, precision shotgun power disruptor and thermite.

Course Schedule

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday
Day's Theme Chemical Explosives and Mixtures Detonation Theory and Explosive Initiation Synthesis of Explosives Explosive Testing and Diagnostics
8 - 8:30am Welcome, course introduction, EMRTC overview Review of Day 1 Review of Day 2 Review of Day 3
8:30am Primary, secondary, tertiary explosives Detonation of explosives, Coupling to materials, deflagration to detonation Explosive types, formulation, manufacture and energy output Critical Diameter; Run distance
10:00am Chemistry and structure of explosives: fuels, oxidizers, and metal additives Basics of blasting caps history black powder, Armstrong's mixture, Nobel unusual Shock physics, modeling, EFP and and SC primer Small scale mechanical testing, drop, friction, analysis, interpretation
11:00am Thermochemistry and oxygen balance in explosive mixtures, products of explosion Commercial initiators, types, power considerations and firesets simultaneity Forms of explosive materials, plastics, gels, castings, extrusions, their effects and advantages Use of various initiators, systems comparison of commercial to improvised; DIY example RF Fireset
1:00pm Explosive precursor materials, commercial vs improvised, powder vs cast, liquid HE vs propellent Improvised initiators and firesets, electronics, spark gaps, countermeasures Challenges large scale synthesis, effects of process interruption Sensitization / desensitization of explosives; phlegmization;
2:00pm Chemical and explosive safety and small scale blast effects, standoff distance, shielding Detonator safety, external signals / interference, and blast effects on sequencing Chemical and explosive safety; blast, overpressure, structural effects, forensics Shape charge and EFP demo
Field Lab 3 - 5:00pm Energetic materials, mixtures, HME lab basics; DIY example Letter B Small scale electrical testing; energy injection, ESD-man, ESD-tool Synthesis of commercial and military explosives DIY example Car B Explosive testing, detonation velocity, confinement, overpressure