posted on Mar, 31 2003 @ 11:57 AM
I posted this on the end of another thread, but after more thought, I decided that it needs a thread of its own.
Using the Global Positioning System, the United States has the ability to deliver a conventional or nuclear warhead within inches of its target,
anywhere in the world. Our adversaries have responded by burying key command and control installations and nuclear and bioweapons laboratories deeper
and deeper underground and inside mountains. The only ground penetrator in the current nuclear arsenal is the 1200-pound B61-11 gravity bomb, a
wind-tunnel test model of which is shown above. It can penetrate about 20 ft. into a dry lakebed. To reach deeper required weapons designers to
strengthen the package used to deliver warheads.
The solution would come in the form of an old weapon, a gun barrel. Artillerymen call the barrels of their guns "tubes." Dating to ancient China,
these metallurgical marvels have steadily improved to the point at which they can withstand the forces needed to propel a projectile to the very edge
of space. Looking at these historic weapons, scientists at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M.,
realized they had the perfect enclosure for a deep-penetrating nuclear weapon. They took their idea to the field and dropped a mock bomb based on a
"retired" artillery tube.
Although the test was successful, there remained a critical technical problem. As a projectile drives through rock, it experiences pressures that can
cause even the strongest artillery tube alloys to flow like molten plastic. For a chemical explosive, the resulting deformation is not necessarily
critical. However, for a nuclear weapon it is nothing short of catastrophic. Dropping a nuclear weapon that fails to explode is tantamount to giving
an enemy a nuclear weapon of their own.
One solution, illustrated on the next page, is to prevent deformation by sheathing the artillery tube in an envelope made of virtually indestructible
carbon-nanotube fabric. Recently, Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratory, also in New Mexico, formed a joint research center, the objectives of
which include developing techniques to create bulk quantities of nanomaterials like those needed to sheathe the next-generation bunker buster.
THE WHOLE ARTICLE