This Magazine

Progressive politics, ideas & culture


Holy jesus! That’s a lot of explosives

This Magazine Staff

I think the thing that surprises me the most about the IRA arsenal, which was destroyed in its entirety last week according to retired Canadian general John de Chastelain (who oversaw the weapons destruction), is how few weapons this group had. Only about 750 really nasty rifles and but one (one!) surface to air (SAM) missile, and still they kept an entire crumbling empire on its toes for a couple hundred years or so. Then I got to the line item about Semtex explosives. 3 tonnes!

A little perspective: Semtex is a Czech-made plastic explosive that is odourless and therefore damn hard to detect. Here are some details from a global security, explosives website:

Three pounds of Semtex plastique packs enough punch to raze a two-story building. Terrorists attack with no warning and no rationale. Their weapon of choice is a pliable, odorless substance that is twice as powerful as TNT and is virtually invisible to conventional security devices. It can be hidden in a brief case or a small cassette recorder.

So let me just say—three tonnes less of the damn stuff in the world. Happy day!

Here’s the whole IRA cache, according to the story in the Guardian:

650 Kalashnikov assault rifles

40 Armalite assault rifles, smuggled from America, often stolen from US army stores

50 machine guns

60 Webley revolvers

2 Barret high-powered US sniper rifles

40 rocket launchers

6 flame throwers

1 SAM-7 surface-to-air missile

600 bomb detonators

3 tonnes of Semtex explosives

Plus Hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition

Show Comments