WTD 91: Detonation of a Bunker Buster

WTD 91: Detonation of a Bunker Buster

  • Technology
  • Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support
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The detonation can still clearly be felt inside the small reinforced concrete bunker that is situated on a small hill at a distance of 17 kilometers from the entrance of the Bundeswehr Technical Center for Weapons and Ammunition (WTD 91).

Six bombs lying in a metal rack on a large plate at the range.

These six bombs are supposed to survive the detonation. Comprehensive testing at WTD 91 is important for ammunition transport and storage safety of the so-called bunker busters.

Bundeswehr/WTD 91

Approximately an hour earlier, on a Monday in June, a WTD 91 ammunition transport stops at the demolition site close to the bunker. A wheel loader unloads six bombs with a total weight of approx. three tons and puts them right in the center of the site. The huge weapon is a bunker buster with a length of approximately two meters. Once all the tests have been completed, the bombs are supposed to be used on the Eurofighter aircraft.

“Today, we are going to check the behavior of the other bombs after one of them has detonated” explains Sebastian Dartmann, test manager for today's detonation. “Ideally, nothing will happen. In the worst case, the other bombs also detonate.” According to Dartmann, such trials are important for planning ammunition transports as well as for bomb storage.

The bombs are standing on muddy ground, surrounded by pressure sensors

Bad weather conditions do not keep the WTD 91 women and men from carrying out the tests. Once the test setup has been completed, everybody is waiting for the approval for the detonation.

Bundeswehr/WTD 91
A big metal bar with cables on a ground-mounted bracket

Several pressure sensors are anchored to the ground in a circle around the bomb. The tip of the measuring probe measures the pressure. Afterwards, measuring engineers calculate whether it was a detonation or a burning.

Bundeswehr/WTD 91

Preparing such a trial is labor-intensive. “Of course, we need a lot of metrology to be able to understand what exactly happens during such an incident,” says the 35-year-old mechanical engineer. “Furthermore, regulations with respect to environmental protection, occupational safety, noise protection and many other things must be taken into account.”

A man standing in front of a building with a thick steel door with his arms crossed.
Sebastian Dartmann, Senior civil servant and test manager Bundeswehr/Dominik Wullers
Furthermore, regulations with respect to environmental protection, occupational safety, noise protection and many other things must be taken into account.

While he is recounting the conditions and requirements, WTD 91 firing control reports by radio. “We have to interrupt,” Dartmann informs the range technicians. In order to exclude the so-called focus, a meteorological investigation must be carried out. “During certain meteorological conditions the blast wave may be reflected back to earth from the sky. As a consequence, window panes, somewhere several kilometers away, may burst. Of course, we would like to prevent this from happening by carrying out these investigations.”

After a few minutes, the all-clear is announced. “We can start now,” says Dartmann. Everybody has to leave the demolition site. At some hundred meters distance, there is a Bundeswehr armored transport vehicle, behind that, an ambulance and the Bundeswehr fire brigade - just in case. Only Mr Dartmann and a colleague are allowed to stay in the bunker on the edge of the demolition site. “We sometimes work with untested ammunition and prototypes. Thus, on principle, we are very cautious,” explains Dartmann, who is a native of the nearby city of Lingen.

Three, two, one...

The moment has come. Everyone in the bunker is very focussed. Sebastian Dartmann is looking out of the narrow ballistic glass window at the demolition site. Next to him, the screens of the video cameras and other metrological sensors are flickering. He is holding a small box with a red button in his hands. He turns the crank and counts down. Three. Two. One.

A huge explosion recorded from a distance

The huge explosion is recorded from a safe distance. Among other things, technicians use the recordings for later evaluation.

Bundeswehr/WTD 91

by Dominik Wullers

WTD 91: Detonation of a Bunker Buster

A bunker buster is detonated at the Bundeswehr Technical Center for Weapons and Ammunition (WTD 91) in Meppen. The bomb is approximately two meters long. Once all the tests have been completed, the weapons are to be used on Eurofighter aircraft.