Streetwise Professor

October 10, 2012

Spontaneous Ignition Is Not a Good Thing When Ammunition Is Involved

Filed under: Military,Russia — The Professor @ 8:38 pm

I’ve written often in the past about ammunition explosions in Russia.  Well, it happened again, this time in Orenberg, near the border with Kazakhstan.  The Moscow Times refers to it as a “freak explosion”, but it happens with sufficient regularity that freakish isn’t the word for it.

Four kilotons-yes, 4000 tons-of ammunition exploded while being unloaded from a train.  That’s a lot of ammunition.  4000 one ton bombs. About 90,000-yes, ninety-thousand-155mm artillery shells.

The cause is the subject of dispute, with local officials and defense officials offering different explanations.  Shocking, I know:

Local emergency officials told RIA-Novosti that the blasts were triggered by a fire at the Donguz base’s ammunition-unloading station.

Defense officials, however, claimed that the shells spontaneously ignited.

They just blew up, all by themselves.  Honest!  (Scarily similar to one of Homer Simpson’s three rules to live by: “It was like that when I got here.”)  Why would they just “spontaneously ignite”?  Were they unstable from age or improper storage?

I cannot remember a single major ammunition dump explosion in the US or western Europe in years.  There have been four (by my recollection) in Russia in the past three years or so.  Further evidence, if any was needed, of the shambolic nature of the Russian military.

And some bonus social commentary:

Despite emergency workers’ efforts to evacuate more than 10,000 people from towns within a 10-kilometer radius of the base, only 19 residents agreed to leave. Others feared for their would-be unattended homes.

“The residents were more afraid of looters than the explosions,” an emergency worker told Interfax.


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  1. I seem to remember several incidents of Russian ammo exploding in other countries who have purchased Russian military gear.

    Comment by FredB — October 10, 2012 @ 9:08 pm

  2. And historically, of course, you had the Severomorsk explosion in 1984.

    This blog post from 2009 has a somewhat sketchy list of Russian/Soviet ammunition-related disasters.

    Comment by Blackshoe — October 11, 2012 @ 7:01 am

  3. Here are some of my posts on previous outbreaks of spontaneity.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 11, 2012 @ 9:12 am

  4. So that makes four in two years. I’m sure I wrote about one earlier, in 2008. I’ll try to find it.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 11, 2012 @ 9:14 am

  5. Not to be a geeky nitpicker, but it is a “town” (-burg), not a “mountain” (-berg). Upon Or’ river, of course.

    Comment by LL — October 11, 2012 @ 11:19 am

  6. More dastardly Yankee sabotage.

    Comment by pahoben — October 12, 2012 @ 6:46 am

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