Hexamine is one of the starting materials used in the production of the explosives RDX and HMX. Hexamine is a reactive heterocyclic fused ring compound produced by condensation of formaldehyde and ammonia.
RDX and HMX are manufactured at the Holston Army Ammunition Plant (HAAP). The plant is located in Kingsport, TN on the Holston River.
Both RDX and HMX are used in a large number of explosive mixtures which have a variety of end uses. RDX and desensitizing waxes are designated as Composition A explosives. These mixtures are used in press loaded small artillery shells. Compositions A-3 and A-5 are also used as booster charges in place of Tetryl which is no longer manufactured by the Army.
Composition B and Cyclotols are mixtures of RDX and TNT. Desensitizing wax is also added to the Composition B products. The superior properties have lead to the extensive use of Composition B as] burster charges in bombs, artillery shells and land mines(6). For this purpose, the Composition B is melt loaded into the end item. Once solidified, the cast explosive can be drilled for insertion of non-bursting charge components.
Other major groups of explosive mixtures containing RDX are the plastic bonded explosives(7) and demolition charges. These formulations are known as Composition C, PBX, and PBXN explosives and contain RDX compounded with plasticizers and solvents.
Cyclohexanone is used as a recrystallization solvent in the manufacture of RDX at Holston. At the 1978 production level, Holston utilized 180,000 lb. of cyclohexanone. The civilian cyclohexanone production is 1.6 billion lb. per year. The major civilian use of cyclohexanone is as a chemical intermediate in the manufacture of nylon 66 and nylon 6. It is also used as a solvent and in the manufacture of caprolactone. In the environment, cyclohexanone is degraded by photochemical and microbial pathways.
Holston has ten RDX/HMX lines capable of producing 250 million lb./yr. of RDX and 15 million lb./yr. of HMX at full capacity. In 1978 Holston was operating at only 8% capacity.