05 January 2004

The Australian: Private targets alert

The Australian: Private targets alert

By Ean Higgins

ON May 6, at the South Australian ballistic missile test site of Woomera, bomb experts will light off five tonnes of the high explosive Hexolite.

It promises to be what, in Irish Republican Army parlance, will be a 'spectacular'. The blast material, a mixture of RDX and TNT, will gauge the extent to which it blows to smithereens various materials.

One might think it would be a test of how to produce better armour for tanks or concrete for military bunkers. But no, the aim will be to see how various materials in buildings stand up to explosions.

A couple of townhouses and various commercial structures made of standard brick and concrete block among other materials are being built to be blown up from different distances. While it will be a Defence Science and Technology Organisation show, many of the observers will be from business groups including a busload from Engineers Australia.

The bomb master, or as he prefers to be known, trial manager, Major Keith Parker, said the experiment would test 'how much load will go on to buildings' during explosions.

While this test will provide lessons for building standards generally, including against accidents, the terror factor will be top of mind.

The message seems to be getting through to government and the business community that commercial interests rather than conventional military, government or civil infrastructure are the most likely terrorist targets."

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