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Sympathetic detonation

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Sympathetic detonation of explosives takes place when an "acceptor" explosive detonates from the blast of a nearby "donor" explosion, with no interconnection between the donor and acceptor. Sympathetic detonation may be undesirable from the standpoint of the owner of the acceptor munition, asin the catastrophic chain reactions among munitions during fires on the aircraft carriers US aircraft carriers USS Forrestal (CV-59) (1967), USS Enterprise (CVN-65) (1969) and USS Nimitz (CVN-68) (1981). [1] Insensitive high explosives are designed to minimize the change of their sympathetic detonation.

As another example where the effect is not desired by the owner of the acceptor, line charges used for mine clearing use sympathetic detonation.

It may be desirable with such explosives as "ditching dynamite", a 50% nitroglycerin shock-sensitive explosive used for commercial excavation without a need for complex interconnection of the individual charges.[2] Makers of improvised explosive devices using the coupling technique exploit sympathetic detonation.


  1. Dinesh Raghavan (December 2005), Design Methodology for Understanding the Sympathetic Detonation Charactistics of Insensitive High Explosives, Naval Postgraduate School, Master's Thesis, p. 17
  2. Explosives - Compositions, Federation of American Scientists