The warhead is the weapon component that causes damage to the target. A basic warhead consists of three parts: a warhead case, a fuze and an explosive fill. Since each type of target presents a different physical destruction problem, a variety of warheads are required.

Currently, long-range objectives call for Picatinny to develop and demonstrate a future generation of warheads using shaped charge (SC), explosively formed penetrator (EFP) and other technologies that will deliver a higher level of performance with a smaller warhead. They are also looking at Safing and Arming (S&A) devices for fuzing for shaped charge and EFP warheads that will provide multipurpose capabilities, a critical need to support interoperability requirements of the future Army.

Examples of Warheads Being Developed and/or Fielded by Picatinny

The Shaped Charge Warhead (SC) consists of a hollow liner of metal material, typically copper or aluminum of conical, hemispherical or some other designated shape, backed on the convex side by an explosive. A container, fuze and detonating device are also included. The SC was first used in World War II for penetration of tank armor, bunkers and fuel storage containers. Because of its superior performance, the warhead was incorporated into almost all rockets, missiles, and submunitions used today. Since WWII, Picatinny can be credited with making large contributions to the following developments: a SC warhead for the 3.5-inch Bazooka; a SC warhead for the original Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided (TOW) missile and later improvements ranging from the Improved TOW to the TOW2A; the original warhead for the helicopter launched HELLFIRE missile; the warhead for the cannon launched, guided projectile, Copperhead; a lighter increased performance warhead for the HELLFIRE II missile; and a lightweight warhead for the infantry Javelin missile. The shaped charged warheads for HELLFIREII and Javelin are still considered the most efficient production warheads in the world today.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Picatinny became the lead organization in developing a new type of warhead called the Explosively Formed Penetrator (EFP), a conventional weapon in which an explosive is used to simultaneously form and propel a projectile. In the 1990's, Picatinny successfully developed EFP warheads for the Sense and Destroy Armor (SADARM) projectile and the "smart" artillery submunition designed for precision engagement of self-propelled howitzers and other lightly armored vehicles as examples. Picatinny also developed and demonstrated an advanced dual mode EFP warhead for the TOW2A that, in the aerostable mode, can defeat current and next generation threats. Multiple EFP warheads are also being developed to provide full spectrum capability to the Army's future Active Protection System (APS), a global security architecture designed to prevent a ballistic missile threat.

Picatinny recently developed and fielded three new warhead designs for the Special Operations Forces Demolition Kit (SOFDK). The kit consists of inert metal and plastic parts and commercially available items that offer a wide selection of warheads and attachment devices. The new lightweight EFP warheads give the soldier standoff capability to defeat hard targets, something that was impossible before its introduction. These new warheads replaced six other warheads and demolition items in the old kit. The operational capability of these new warheads exceeds the previous designs by 200 percent and the armor/metal defeat capability by 100 percent.

Future Development Technology-based work at Picatinny is currently directed at developing advanced multipurpose shaped charge and EFP warheads that incorporate more powerful, less sensitive explosives and electronic multipoint initiators for the Future Combat Systems (FCS) Multi-Role Advanced Armament System (MRAAS) gun system. Both warheads will have multipurpose capabilities. In addition, the shaped charge will be shortened at least 40 percent while maintaining or increasing penetration; the EFP will have at least a 25 percent increase in penetration. This will permit the fielding of a 105mm gun that is much lighter and smaller than current systems to allow deployment and operability anywhere in the world with no loss of lethality. The multipurpose aspect of these new warheads will make it possible to reduce the types of munitions needed to meet mission requirements.