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The United States Senate has signed a budget of approximately 13 million dollars for a new program to extend the range of its existing missiles. Their plan is to try using more powerful explosives to make longer-range, lighter, and potentially more potent weapons. The best contender at the moment is the chemical “China Lake Compound no. 20”, or “CL-20” for short.
According to Interesting Engineering, CL-20 was first created in the 1980s and has a considerably higher energy output than most commonly used explosives. If the US manages to successfully incorporate this chemical into its current munitions it could extend their range by up to 20 percent. US Representative Mike Gallagher told Reuters that the US needs more “ship-killing missiles” that can reach distant targets.
According to a report from the US Energetics Technology Center published in 2021, if used in a 181kg bomb, new energetic materials can give it the lethality level of a 454kg bomb. This possible increase in efficiency could also allow fighter jets and warships to carry smaller, lighter munitions.
Nevertheless, CL-20 is not very resistant to shock, meaning it has a higher risk of accidents, but Reuters reports that China has used nanotechnology to decrease its shock sensitivity, which could lead to its mass production in the future.
For this project, the Department of Defense will open an office for energetic materials, and it will serve as a coordinating body for the three military branches to investigate the use of chemicals like CL-20.
According to Reuters, the yearly defense bill proposes a CL-20 pilot program to replace either the explosive or propellant in three existing weapons, which will either be the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile, the Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile, the Harpoon anti-ship missile, or the Javelin anti-tank weapon.