Dense Inert Metal Explosive

Dense Inert Metal Explosive

Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) is an experimental type of explosive that has a relatively small but effective blast radius. It is manufactured by producing a homogeneous mixture of an explosive material (such as HMX or RDX) and small particles of a chemically inert material such as tungsten. It is intended to limit the distance at which the explosion causes damage, to avoid collateral damage in warfare.

The phrase inert metal refers to a metal that is not chemically active and therefore not part of the chemical reaction that causes the explosion, as opposed to some metals, such as aluminium that do form part of the chemical reaction e.g. in Tritonal.

An emerging criticism of DIME weapons is that they might turn out to have strong biological effects in those who are hit by the micro-shrapnel from these types of explosives.[1]

DIME mixtures have been studied for some time,[2] but apparently only began to be adopted for weapons after the year 2000.


Method of operation

DIME weapons consist of a carbon fiber casing filled with a mixture of explosive and very dense microshrapnel, consisting of very small particles (1-2 mm) or powder of a heavy metal. To date, tungsten alloy (heavy metal tungsten alloy, or HMTA) composed of tungsten and other metals such as cobalt and nickel or iron has been the preferred material for the dense microshrapnel or powder.

Two common HMTA alloys are:

  • rWNiCo: tungsten (91–93%), nickel (3–5%) and cobalt (2–4%)
  • rWNiFe: tungsten (91–93%), nickel (3–5%) and iron (2–4%)

Upon detonation of the explosive, the casing disintegrates into extremely small particles, as opposed to larger pieces of shrapnel which results from the fragmentation of a metal shell casing. The HMTA powder acts like micro-shrapnel which is very lethal at close range (about 4 meters or 13 feet), but loses momentum very quickly due to air resistance, coming to a halt within approximately 40 times the diameter of the charge. This increases the probability of killing people within a few meters of the explosion while reducing the probability of causing death and injuries or damage farther away. Survivors close to the lethal zone may have their limbs amputated (as the micro shrapnel can slice through soft tissue and bone) by the HMTA micro-shrapnel embedded in their body tissue.[3]

Toxic/carcinogenic effects

The carcinogenic effects of heavy metal tungsten alloys (HMTA) have been studied by the U.S. Armed Forces since at least the year 2000 (along with depleted uranium (DU)). These alloys were found to cause neoplastic transformations of human osteoblast cells.[4]

A more recent U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study in 2005 found that HMTA shrapnel rapidly induces rhabdomyosarcoma cancers in rats.[5]

The tungsten alloy carcinogenicity may be most closely related to the nickel content of the alloys used in weapons to date. However, pure tungsten and tungsten trioxide are also suspected of causing cancer and other toxic properties, and have been shown to have such effects in animal studies.[6]

In 2009, a group of Italian scientists affiliated with watchdog group New Weapons Research Committee (NWRC) pronounced DIME wounds "untreatable" because the powdered tungsten cannot be removed surgically.[7]

Reported use

As reported in the French national newspaper Le Monde, according to a team of journalists from the Italian State radio-television RAI, DIME-type bombs were being used in the Gaza Strip by the Israel Defense Forces against Palestinian targets during July/August 2006. The investigation was performed by examining the unusual wounds, and a lab analysis of the metals found in the victims' bodies was reportedly "compatible with the hypothesis" that a DIME weapon was involved. Israel denied possessing or using such weapons.[8]

Dr. Mads Gilbert and Dr. Erik Fosse, working on wounded from the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, report injuries that they believe can only be caused by some new type of weapon used by Israel which they suspect are DIME bombs.[9][10][11]

See also


  1. ^ DIME: A New Horror at Question Everything, January 14, 2009 (copy of the content)
  2. ^ Cooper, Paul W. Explosives Engineering. New York: Wiley-VCH, 1996. ISBN 0-471-18636-8.
  3. ^ Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) at
  4. ^ "Neoplastic transformation of human osteoblast cells to the tumorigenic phenotype by heavy metal–tungsten alloy particles: induction of genotoxic effects". Carcinogenesis, Vol. 22, No. 1, 115-125, January 2001
  5. ^ Embedded Weapons-Grade Tungsten Alloy Shrapnel Rapidly Induces Metastatic High Grade Rhabdomyosarcomas in F344 Rats by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
  6. ^ Tungsten and Selected Tungsten Compounds - Review of Toxicological Literature
  7. ^ "Gaza: Israel under fire for alleged white phosphorus use", Christian Science Monitor, January 14, 2009, by Robert Marquand and Nicholas Blanford
  8. ^ Gaza doctors say patients suffering mystery injuries after Israeli attacks, The Guardian. October 17, 2006.
  9. ^ Is Israel Using Banned and Experimental Munitions in Gaza?, Democracy Now!. Retrieved January 19, 2009
  10. ^ Fouché G. Norwegian doctors call for investigation into weapons used on Gaza., BMJ 2009;338:b170.
  11. ^ Amira Hass (19/01/2009). "Norwegian doctor: Israel used new type of weapon in Gaza". Haaretz (Israel). Retrieved 2009-01-19. "His best guess, he said, is that the pressure wave is caused by a dense inert metal explosive, or DIME, a type of bomb developed to minimize collateral damage. A military expert working for Human Rights Watch also told Haaretz that the nature of the wounds and descriptions given by Gazans made it seem likely that Israel used DIMEs." 

External links

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