A continuous-rod warhead is a specialized munition used as a part of anti-aircraft and anti-missile missiles.
In its most simple conception, consider a cylindrical form upon which an even number of individual steel rods are arranged. The rods are parallel to the axis of the form and completely cover it. Now at one end, weld every other rod to the adjacent rod. On the opposite end, likewise weld the rods in pairs but ensure when starting that the first pair of rods is not welded on the opposite end. When all rods are welded, the cylinder of rods may be covered with a light sheet metal jacket that will serve to hold all rods in place. Alternatively, the welded rods may be encapsulated with epoxy resin adhesive. The form may now be removed and in its place is cast a cylinder of high explosive.
When detonated, the high explosive imparts a momentum to the rods, thrusting them outward in an expanding circle. The rods are sufficiently ductile to allow the expansion without breaking the rods or the welded joints, the rods instead bending at these locations. At some intermediate point the ring will have a zig-zag (alternating direction) appearance within a cylindrical envelope. Upon ultimate expansion the ring is circular and contained within a plane. The ring will then break and ultimately tend to form one or more straight rods. Since the net momentum of the rod relative to the missile is roughly zero its effectiveness will rapidly diminish as the broken ring expands.
The effect of this rapidly expanding ring upon contact with an aircraft is much more devastating than the conventional shrapnel used in earlier weapons. It is almost assured that any portion of the aircraft intercepted by the expanding ring will be completely dissected, including wiring, fiber optics, cables, and hydraulic lines, no matter how redundant they are. This assurance applies only as long as the ring is unbroken, so multiple layers of rods are employed in practical weapons to increase the effective radius.
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