Book Review

Book cover image
Tactical Missile Warheads (Progress in Astronautics and Aeronautics, Vol. 155)

Joseph Carleone, ed.
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1993, 751 pages (AIAA Tactical Missile Series)


T his is a collection of technical engineering articles on the subject of conventional warheads that are used by U.S. military. Each chapter is written by one or more experts in their respective field. Chapters include target interaction mechanics, penetration of metal targets by fragments, flash radiography, velocity of explosively driven liners, hydrodynamic simulation techniques, and test methodology. There are also separate chapters on each of the main classes of warheads (fragmentation warheads, explosively-formed projectiles, and shaped charges). The chapter on material composition is relatively weak, and discusses the chemistry only superficially. For chemistry, a better book would be Chemistry of Energetic Materials by Olah and Squire. However, the chapter gives a good overview of the practical properties and nomenclature of the materials. There is also a chapter on the history of warheads.

There is little information about lenses or wavefront focusing, or non-chemical effects such as EMPs, and no discussion of nuclear explosives or delivery vehicles. The book contains detailed descriptions of hydrodynamic modeling ("hydrocodes") of warhead detonation, and contains numerous graphs, equations, tables, and X-ray flash autoradiograms.

One important objective of modern warheads is to create holes in armored targets such as tanks. Merely expending kinetic and thermal energy against such a target would be inefficient, requiring an impractical quantity of explosive. A more efficient way, used by most modern manufacturers, is to use a shaped charge. In these devices, which were invented in Germany and first used in the late 1930s, a precisely machined cone-shaped liner is placed in front of the main charge, which converts some of the metal into a fine jet of molten metal that travels at supersonic velocities over 10 km/s. The design goal is to engineer the warhead so that most of the energy is transferred to this fast-moving jet, to create as large a hole as possible, and to stabilize the jet in order to maximize the standoff distance. Considerable effort has been made in optimizing designs for various specific applications. These are well described in the chapter by J. Carleone, who describes his jet particulation model in detail, and in the other chapters on this subject.

The main emphasis in this book is on design considerations and calculations for evaluating the performance of conventional warhead designs. Many of these equations are empirical in nature, and the calculations consist primarily of curve-fitting and finite-element analyses. Although the writing style of this serious subject is dry and quite humorless, this book will provide a solid background for engineers and scientists in the field. This is hampered, however, by the lack of an index and list of acronyms.

This book would be perfect for carrying around and reading while you're waiting for your flight at the airport.

Here are two sample paragraphs:

The CFL [Courant-Friedrichs-Lewy] condition has been applied to more general systems of hyperbolic equations. For these equations, the time steps should be chosen such that the domain of dependence of any mesh point as determined by the difference equations is not less than the domain of dependence determined by the differential equations. Fig. 15 is a geometric illustration of this condition for one-dimensional problems. Two-dimensional problems are discussed in Ref. 10.


The problem of aerodynamic stability of the EFP is very complex. In general, the typical hypersonic flow pattern around a flared EFP is very complicated, as is illustrated in Fig. 13 [11]. This sketch illustrates the shock wave generated by the nose of the EFP as well as the shock waves produced by the beginning of the separation region and the reattachment point. The separated flow in the recirculation area as well as the flow turning angle into the wake are governed by the boundary-layer conditions as well as the pressure fields generated by the shock waves. These interactions are nonlinear functions of the detailed EFP geometry as well as the angle of attack of the EFP and its flight environment.

October 13, 2002 Back