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Raytheon tests tandem-warhead bunker buster

Just in case the 14t Massive Ordnance Penetrator is not enough to crack open a cave complex or buried bunker, Raytheon is testing a two-stage warhead it claims can punch through granite or concrete like no other conventional weapon.

In a recent static test, the warhead fell just short of its goal of blasting through a 6.1m (20ft) thick block of ultra-hard high-pressure concrete. Raytheon plans another ground test, and is working with the US Navy towards a flight demonstration using a Tomahawk cruise missile, says Harry Schulte, vice-president strike weapons.

Kinetic penetrators can bounce off high-pressure concrete, or the enormous g forces of impact can effect the explosive, he says. Instead, Raytheon's design has a shaped-charge precursor warhead that explodes a short distance from the target, producing a 10km/s jet of liquid metal that drills through the concrete. This creates a path for the follow-on warhead to penetrate into the bunker and explode.

The test involved a 610mm (24in)-diameter precursor warhead sized to fit the US Air Force's AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missile. "We think this is the biggest ever built," says Schulte. Detonated 1.8m from the target, the warhead penetrated the ultra-high compressive strength concrete to more than 5.9m.

Raytheon is trying to interest the USAF in converting ACMs to conventional penetrators, but has not found support for a demonstration. The US Navy is interested, and has funded the test of a 460mm-diameter warhead for the Tomahawk. A demonstration flight could take place in 18 months, and a weapon could be fielded in 30 months, says the company.

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