Pune: A new high explosive is in the
making at a DRDO lab here that could replace other standard
explosives of the armed forces such as RDX, HMX, FOX-7 and
Scientists at the Pune-based High Energy Materials
Research Laboratory (HEMRL) have already synthesised adequate
quantity of CL-20, the new explosive, in their laboratory.
"It is the most powerful non-nuclear explosive yet known
to man," according to Dr.A K Sikder, HEMRL`s Joint Director,
who heads the High Energy Materials Division.
The powerful explosive can substantially reduce the
weight and size of the warhead while packing much more punch.
In fact, the RDX is not the standard explosive in use with the
Indian Armed Forces, but the warheads are mostly packed with
HMX, FOX-7 or Amorphous Boron.
The compound, `Indian CL-20` or `ICL-20`, was
indigenously developed in HEMRL using inverse technology.
"The HEMRL has taken India to an elite club of countries
with advanced capabilities in the field of Energetic
Materials," according to Manish Bhardwaj, a senior Scientist
with the DRDO lab.
In fact, CL-20 is such a fascination for the HEMRL that a
larger-than-life size model of the compound occupies the pride
of place as one enters the portals of the main building of the
DRDO`s premier lab in Pune.
CL-20, so named after the China Lake facility of the
Naval Air Weapons Station in California, US, was first
synthesised by Dr Arnold Nielson in 1987.
CL-20 or Octa-Nitro-Cubane is a Nitramine class of
explosive 15 times as powerful as HMX, His/Her Majesty
Explosive or High Melting Explosive or Octogen, a Defence
ministry spokesperson said.
The HMX itself is more than four times as potent as the
Research Developed Explosive or Royal Demolition Explosive or
Cyclonite or Hexogen, commonly known as RDX.
"CL-20 offers the only option within the next 10-15 years
to meet the requirements of the Indian armed forces for
futuristic weapons," Sikder said.
"CL-20-based Shaped Charges significantly improve the
penetration over armours," he said, adding that it could be
used in the bomb for the 120-mm main gun mounted on the MBT
"But the costs of mass production of ICL-20 are still
prohibitive," he said.
Compared to Rs 750 per kilogram it takes to produce RDX
in the factory, the HMX is worth about Rs 6,000 per kg, while
a kilogram of CL-20 costs a whopping Rs 70,000 per kg.
"We have a tie up with industry partner for intermediate
commercial exploitation of ICL-20," said Dr A Subhananda Rao,
Director of HEMRL.