Torpex is a secondary explosive, 50% more powerful than TNT by mass. Torpex comprises 42% RDX, 40% TNT and 18% powdered aluminium. It was used in the Second World War from late 1942. The name is short for "Torpedo Explosive", having been originally developed for use in torpedoes. Torpex proved to be particularly useful in underwater munitions because the aluminium component had the effect of making the explosive pulse last longer, which increased the destructive power. Torpex was used only in critical applications, e.g. torpedoes and the Upkeep, Tallboy, and Grand Slam bombs. It was also used in the Operation Aphrodite drones. Torpex has long been superseded by H6 and PBX compositions. It is therefore regarded as obsolete, so Torpex is unlikely to be encountered except in old munitions or unexploded ordnance.
Torpex was developed at the Royal Gunpowder Factory, Waltham Abbey, in the United Kingdom as a more powerful military alternative to TNT. RDX was developed in 1899. Though very stable and serving as the reference point by which the sensitivity of other explosives are judged, it was too expensive for most military applications and reserved for use in the most important products, such as torpedoes. Aluminium powder was also added to the mix to further enhance the effect. Although both RDX and TNT have a negative oxygen balance, the superheated aluminium component tends to contribute primarily by extending the expansion time of the explosive product gases. Beeswax was also added as a phlegmatizing agent, to reduce sensitivity to shock and impact. Later, beeswax was replaced with paraffin wax, and calcium carbonate was added as a moisture absorber to reduce the production of hydrogen gas under high humidity.
- Gannon 1996, p. 183
- Gannon, Robert (1996). Hellions of the Deep: The Development of American Torpedoes in World War II. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 0-271-01508-X.
- Rowland, Buford; Boyd, William B. (1947). U.S. Navy Bureau of Ordnance in World War II (Report). Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.
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