What are DIME weapons?

The acronym DIME stands for Dense Inert Metal Explosive. DIMES are a type of what are termed “low-collateral-damage” weapons, which are designed to produce a very powerful explosion within a small radius. A DIME is a missile consisting of a carbon-fiber warhead case filled with an explosive. The term ‘inert metal’ refers to the addition of the inert (i.e., nonreactive) metal tungsten to the explosive with powdered tungsten (the inert metal). The purpose of the tungsten is to provide ballast for the warhead, so that less explosive needs to be used, thus reducing the blast range. The carbon-fiber warhead case is  made from a carbon-fiber/epoxy matrix and has with a steel nose and base. Thus, a DIME is designed to penetrate a one-foot hardened concrete wall; but after the explosion, the case disintegrates into small non-lethal fibers with little or no metallic fragments that, in theory, should not damage nearby people and structures [1, 2].

Research into developing DIMES began by at least 2002, and early prototypes were tested by the US Air Force as early as 2004 [1, 2]. The rationale behind developing such weapons was that, by reducing the blast radius, the loss of innocent lives would be reduced. However, the addition of the tungsten, a metal which is able to conduct very high temperatures, apparently causes the explosion to be much more damaging than anticipated.  The superheated tungsten powder spreads over four meters, and acts as “microshrapnel” to destroy anything in it’s path. According to an article by the U.S.-based website Defense-Tech, “the result is an incredibly destructive blast in a small area … the destructive power of the mixture causes far more damage than pure explosive … the impact of the micro-shrapnel seems to cause a similar but more powerful effect than a shockwave” (the Defense-Tech article no longer appears to be online but was quoted in [3]).

The kinds of injuries produced by DIMEs include horrific burns (reports of finding bodies that were completely burned) and amputations that looks as if “as if a saw was used to cut through the bone.” Doctors examing the wounds and internal organs of victims reported finding particles that could not be seen by x-ray  [3].  In addition, in an article entitled ‘Cancer Worries for New U.S. Bombs’ (which also appears to be no longer available but is quoted in [4]), Defense-Tech reported the following:  “In a study designed to simulate shrapnel injuries, pellets of weapons-grade tungsten alloy were implanted in 92 rats. Within five months all the animals developed a rare cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma” (see [5] for a link to the original study). In addition, some evidence may link airborne tungsten particles with an increased incidence of childhood leukemia [6]. Thus, the use of DIME warheads may have long-lasting effects on the environment that could lead to a general increase in the incidence of cancer.

References

1. “Dense Inert Metal Explosive”.  http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/munitions/dime.htm

2. “Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME)”. http://www.defense-update.com/products/d/dime.htm

3. “Italian TV: Israel Used New Weapon Prototype in Gaza Strip”. http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/italian-tv-israel-used-new-weapon-prototype-in-gaza-strip-1.201107

4. “Israel Tests New Highly Lethal, Cancer-Causing Tungsten Bomb in Gaza”. http://www.richardsilverstein.com/2006/10/10/israel-tests-new-lethal-weapon-in-gaza/

5. “Embedded Weapons-grade Tungsten Alloy Shrapnel Rapidly Induces Metastatic High-grade Rhabdomyosarcomas in F344 Rats.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1257598/

6. “Comparison of Size and Geography of Airborne Tungsten Particles in Fallon, Nevada, and Sweet Home, Oregon, with Implications for Public Health”. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3317226/

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