Monday, February 10, 2020

Doing homework (fiction)

The team given the task of developing ways to take down bridges included Miguel, Larry Tomanica, Gimp and two old farmers who had used dynamite to blow stumps. The two old guys were Willard Katz and Nick Reever.

Larry gave the team a quick review of demo. He stated catagorically that the low quality of explosives available to Capiche would not “cut” steel.

That is when Larry pulled out a bag of white prills and a yellow fuel can with diesel in it.

“One of the alternatives we are going to look at is ANFO, that is Ammonium Nitrate + Fuel Oil." Larry said.

Willard said "I seen the DNR blow ponds with ANFO and it seemed pretty powerful to me. Why won't it cut steel?"

Larry said "ANFO, mixed in the right ratio is almost as powerful as TNT. The problem is that ANFO is difficult to coax into detonating. It does not like to be used in small amounts nor does it like to be out-in-the-open that is, untamped."

Larry's voice was in the monotonous, "teaching voice" he had picked up from instructors.

"The way you get around ANFO being stubborn to detonate is burying big chunks of it. The fact that it is in a hole provides the tamping and the big block creates a large detonation-front where there is less risk of it petering-out.” Tomanica said.

“Why do you figure that is?” Willard asked. Not challenging. Just curious.

“I figure it is because ANFO is a mixture. The Ammonium nitrate is the oxidizer and some of the fuel. The fuel oil is the rest of the fuel. You take something like TNT and it is a perfect explosive. Each molecule has the correct mix of carbon and hydrogen atoms for fuel and oxygen atoms for oxidizer.” Tomanica said.

“The problem is ANFO is that the oil can settle in the bottom. The practical demolition response is to compensate for the problems by using plenty of it and to make the charge as blocky as possible. It ain’t like C-4 where you can make a rope or a ribbon and use it to cut a girder.” Tomanica finished.

“What are the other choices?” Nick Reever asked.

“We can disassemble the bridge, either with or without the help of plasma arc cutters.” Tomanica said.

Reever shook his head. “No way do I want to be under that bridge removing bolts. Damned thing would be likely to land on my head.”

Tomanica agreed. “Yup. Dissassembly is my last choice, too. It takes too long, for one thing. For another, the hostiles could jury rig cranes and reassemble it.”

“The third choice” Tomanica said “is thermite.”

Willard frowned. “Didn’t the old timers use thermite to weld stuff like rails together?”

“Probably so.” Tomanica said. “But it can also be used for cutting. It works best for cutting horizontal flanges. We didn’t use a lot of it in the Corps but we had familiarization training.”

“What is thermite?” Miguel asked.

“It is a mixture of aluminum dust and iron oxide.” Tomanica explained. “The aluminum wants the oxygen more than the iron and it makes heat when it steals the oxygen.”

“Does it explode” Miguel asked.

“Nope. It happens to slow. It does leave a puddle of super-heated, liquid iron which is what cuts.” Tomanica said.

“So how are we going to decide which way we go?” Miguel asked.

“We are going to vote on it.” Tomanica said.

That didn’t sound very military to Miguel or the two old-timers. Then Tomanica finished the thought.

“We have three bridges we picked out west of Capiche. They look like the bridges Miguel drew up...which is one of the reasons he is hear. We are going to take down one bridge using each method and then we vote” Tomanica said.

“By the way,” Tomanica added as an afterthought. Which-ever way we pick we need to get good enough to where we can drop twenty-four bridges in one night.”


Bertie was a whiner and a complainer. She did not like rolling the steel slugs in the paper patches. She did not like dragging the paper strips through the egg white “glue”. Nor did she like the waxing operation.

Di, Kelly Carnie’s wife, happened to be passing by the room when Bertie loudly complained, “I don’t know why they can’t just jam these steel doo-dads in regular bullets.”

Di went down to Kelly’s reloading room, a space that had not seem much use in the last year. She looked around until she found some military surplus, FMJ bullets Kelly had picked up cheap a decade earlier.

“I have a question for you.” Di announced to Kelly at lunch.

“Hmmm. What’s that?” Kelly asked.

Di put a handful of the FMJ projectiles on the table next to a handful of the hardened, steel penetraters Bertie had wrapped.

“I look at those paper patches and can’t help but think they will be a problem the first time it rains.” Di said.

“That is what the wax is for.” Kelly explained, patiently. He wasn’t all that happy either. The paper tended to get scarred when handled and the accuracy was iffy.

“I have seen you press shafts into bushings on that tool, an arbor press maybe. Why can’t you press these cores into these open-based bullets.” Di asked.

“Because the jackets are already full of lead.” Kelly said.

“But that is why we can’t use lead for armor piercing because it is soft...I think you compared it to toothpaste.” Di pointed out.

Then Di pulled out an old, partially used tube of lip-gloss. She took an unpatched core and pressed it into the lip-gloss. The lip-gloss squirted out as the steel core was pressed in.

Kelly looked at Di in a bit of a daze. He had lamented the impossibility of inserting the cores into soft-points. The opening in the tip of the bullet was many times too small to insert the core. He hadn’t considered converting FMJ which had their entire base exposed.

It took Kelly about an hour to construct a simple tools to hold the core and to securely position the recipient FMJ bullet.

The core went in with little effort with the mechanical advantage offered by the arbor press. Kelly would need to figure out how to trim the lead that squirted out of the base of the bullet but FMJ bullet with the new, hardened steel penetrator was clearly a much better projectile. It could be bumped, banged, soaked and heated and it would still remain a shootable projectile.


1 comment:

  1. The power of a lazy woman... properly harnessed.



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