At 51, Bomb and Warhead Unit Keeps Up with Times

By Kennedy, D. R.; Sturgeon, T. R. | National Defense, February 2000 | Go to article overview

At 51, Bomb and Warhead Unit Keeps Up with Times


Kennedy, D. R., Sturgeon, T. R., National Defense


HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

As the United States enters the third millennium, conventional weapon designs and delivery systems have evolved to a level of sophistication that makes the word "bomb" seem as old fashioned as the term "buggy whip."

Modern weapons systems contain much more electronics than did previous generations, functions are integrated into smaller packages, and designers have greatly increased their understanding of system performance.

Recognizing this evolution, the Bomb and Warhead Division of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) is considering changing its name to the Warhead Technologies Division.

If the new name is adopted, it will be only the most recent of many innovations that the committee has witnessed during its 51 years of existence.

The divisions origins can be traced to 1946, when the American Ordnance Association (AOA), a forerunner of NDIA, established a Bomb Committee within its Rockets, Bombs and Artillery Division. However, an issue of Ordnance Magazinethe predecessor to National Defense Magazine-asserted that "the first meeting was at Picatinny Arsenal [N.J.] in 1949." Right or wrong, that was the date from which the committee's anniversaries were counted.

From March 1949 through October 1950, Ordnance Magazine listed R.C. Enos as chairman of the Bomb Committee. By 1955, Nick L. Etten had become chairman, and Brig. Gen. Merle Davis was secretary. Davis later succeeded Etten as committee chairman.

Both were associated with the Chamberlain Manufacturing Corporation, of Waterloo, Iowa, a major supplier of artillery ammunition. Chamberlain supplied the committee's chairman and secretary for nearly three decades.

By 1962, the bomb organization-now called the Bomb and Warhead Assembly Section-was part of the Artillery Ammunition Division. In November 1964, the Air Armaments Division was created, and in early 1965, the bomb organization, with its name shortened to the Bomb and Warhead Section, joined the new division. These names and affiliations remained constant until 1999, when the Bomb and Warhead Section became a separate division in its own right within NDIA.

During the past half century, the NDIA Bomb and Warhead Division, as it currently is known, saw tremendous advances in weapon technology. A look at the division's history shows the diversity of organizations involved in this important work.

From the first inception of the bomb committee, virtually all of the annual technical meetings and most of the papers presented have been classified. As a result, meetings necessarily have been held in venues where security could be maintained.

Early meetings hosted by the Army were held at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md., and Picatinny ArsenaL

Those held by the Navy were conducted at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory in Silver Spring, Md. The Air Force held its meetings at Eglin Air Force Base, in Florida. A different service conducted the meeting each year.

Possibly one of the most interesting was held at California's China Lake Naval Ordnance Test Station in the 1970s. The meeting featured live demonstrations of a fuel air explosive destroying a B-29 bomber and a thin sheet of explosives completely disassembling a surplus Navy truck. …

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At 51, Bomb and Warhead Unit Keeps Up with Times
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