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Torpex is a secondary explosive 50% more powerful than TNT by mass. Torpex is composed of 42% RDX, 40% TNT and 18% powdered aluminium. It was used in the Second World War from late 1942. The name is short for Torpedo Explosive', having been originally developed for use in torpedoes. Torpex proved to be particularly useful in underwater munitions because the aluminium component had the effect of making the explosive pulse last longer, which enhanced the destructive power. Torpex was used only in critical applications, e.g. torpedoes and the Upkeep, Tallboy and Grand Slam bombs. It was also used in the Operation Aphrodite drones. Torpex has long been superseded by H6 and PBX compositions. It is therefore regarded as obsolete, so Torpex is unlikely to be encountered except in the form of legacy munitions or unexploded ordnance.


Torpex was developed at the Royal Gunpowder Factory, Waltham Abbeymarker, in the United Kingdommarker as a more powerful military alternative to TNT. RDX was developed in 1899, but was too sensitive to shock to be used in military applications. It was discovered that by mixing TNT and RDX the sensitivity could be reduced and the improvement in power retained. Aluminium powder was also added to the mix to further enhance the effect. Aluminium powder is often added to explosives that are "over-oxidized", that is, ones that release free oxygen during detonation. The extra oxygen combines with the fine aluminium powder in a highly exothermic reaction which generates additional heat and thus greater explosive product volume and expansive force. Beeswax was also added to reduce sensitivity to shock and impact. Later, beeswax was replaced with a petroleum-based product, and calcium carbonate was added as a moisture absorber to reduce the production of hydrogen gas under high humidity.

See also


  • Gannon, Robert. Hellions of the Deep: The Development of American Torpedoes in World War II. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996. ISBN 0-271-01508-X.


  1. Hellions of the Deep, p.183

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