A disturbing amount of munitions fail to function, meaning these items remain hidden for decades and are still incredibly dangerous.

Such objects are referred to as UXO, UXBs or Explosive Remnants of War, but what are they and where did they come from?

The Definition

Unexploded munitions are any type of munition containing explosives, nuclear materials, biological or chemical agents, which failed to act as intended.

They were primed, fused or otherwise prepared for action, before being launched, dropped, buried, fired or projected. Instead of detonating, they remained unexploded, generally by malfunction, although a few devices are deliberately designed to cause this kind of long-lasting hazard.

The list of munitions is extensive, covering everything from bombs to warheads, land mines to torpedoes, rockets to improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Some of these were intended to detonate underwater, meaning even parts of the ocean are contaminated by unexploded ordnance.

Each type of UXO brings new challenges. For instance, cluster bombs are dropped from above. Instead of one bomb exploding upon impact with the ground, the device opens up mid-air to release hundreds of submunitions, which are then scattered over a wide area. It’s currently a grave issue in Ukraine, especially as a deadly 40% of dropped cluster bombs fail to explode!

Types Of Unexploded Munitions

Explosive ordnance is generally split into two categories:

● Air-delivered explosive ordnance
● Military/allied explosive ordnance

Air-delivered ordnance includes high explosive bombs, the kind you’re likely to imagine being dropped by the Luftwaffe during the Blitz. However, UXO also comes from training centres, practice ranges and weapons manufacturing. In fact, the army destroys an average of eight British or American air-dropped weapons every year!

Incendiary weapons are a prime example of air-delivered ordnance that’s not restricted to the world wars. They’re designed to cause fires through chemical reactions, giving terrible burns and destroying homes and infrastructure. They’re still very much in use, most notably in Syria.

This is in contrast to parachute mines, which declined in use after 1941. They were originally dropped into the ocean, but were soon detonated over British land, exploding at roof-level to allow the shockwave to reach a wider area. A parachute mine was capable of killing up to 100 people.

Allied Explosive Ordnance

Allied explosive ordnance has a very broad field, encompassing all kinds of munitions. They include grenades and anti-tank weapons, mines, artillery, mortars and small arms ammunition e.g. cartridges from shotguns, rifles, pistols and revolvers. The latter do not always cause a hazard but, based on operational history and length of use, it can still be a source of UXO.

Clearing UXO

With an estimated 10% of all munitions failing to explode, numerous ground intrusion and construction projects encounter UXO each year in the UK.

Fortunately, Brimstone offers a variety of assessment, survey and investigation services to keep your project safe.

If you’re not sure which service is right for you, you can use our handy online tool to find exactly what you need.

Keep up to date with Brimstone UXO by following us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.