Safety of Naval Explosives

Tuesday 11 January 2005 2-30pm Field Place, Durrington, Worthing. Safety of Naval Explosives.
This talk was given by Randy Keir, Member, who spent a long career with the MOD, associated with many aspects naval weapons management, and became the RN Chief Environment and Safety Officer in the Defence Procurement Agency.
Initially the terms ‘munitions’ and ‘explosives’ were defined in the context of the talk.
The history of naval explosives safety, was then summarised, from the 14th century, when guns were first used aboard ship. An interesting point was that for some 300 years from the late 16th century, control of naval ordnance was merged into and controlled by the army. Since the early 20th century, control has been with the Admiralty. The first remit emphasised the safety of naval personnel and ships. This developed into the current position where the safety policies of the armed services comply, at the least, with current UK and EU legislation.
Naval munitions were then discussed. A theoretical munition was shown to illustrate its sub-assemblies; warhead, propulsion unit, control system, safety, arming, fuse systems etc.. This was then applied to actual munitions, including the Sea Wolf vertical launch missile, the submarine launched Trident missile, the largest in the RN, at 110,000lb and 44ft long, with a range of 4000 miles, the surface or air launched Stingray missile, and the heavier Spearfish anti-ship and submarine missile, submarine launched.
Types of ships were described, from the aspect of storage and use of explosives and the safety environments thus created. The largest ship is HMS Ocean, a helicopter-landing platform, carrying in close proximity 1000 crew and troops, 250 tonnes of munitions, and operating 18 helicopters. For the future, two larger aircraft carriers are approved, as we learnt from the recent RN Presentation. Destroyers, frigates and submarines were similarly described, with some submarines having the added safety consideration of nuclear power. The environments in which RN ships operate were discussed. The natural environment, the sea, with all its variety of conditions, the induced and operational environments aboard, electromagnetic, replenishment, ammunition, fuelling, was included in safety and hazard audits.
Session 2004/05 No3 5 March 2005
Safety assurance commences at the MOD munitions procurement stage, using the CADMID cycle of concept, assessment, development, manufacture, in-service and disposal. From this, an Operating Environment Document and Safety Case are produced for each ship. The Safety Assessment Process requires that the nature and behaviour of explosives used are known. This is achieved from the Explosives Qualification process leading to assessments and trials. The requirements, classification and testing of explosives were described. Further surveillance and inspection is carried out throughout the in-service life of munitions. Significant effort is being applied to research into future munitions, to reduce the risk to ships and crews whilst maintaining their efficiency. Areas of research include insensitive munitions, low vulnerability ammunition propellants, liquid propellant and electromagnetic guns.
The Speaker was given a well-deserved vote of thanks for his long and detailed talk. (C Harrison)