Blaster Power Antimateriel Blasts
Antimateriel firepower of handheld blasters & their 21st Century-Earth HE / TNT equivalence
This article reveals blaster firepower and destructive ability in an anti-materiel role and compares the handheld blasters destructive explosive ability to that of contemporary explosives on Earth including TNT, gunpowder and gelignite.
These comparisons focus on blasters operating at higher-end & maximal power level settings to achieve anti-materiel effects, such as blasting through walls, destroying bulkheads & demolishing rock.
"Technical citations & quotes"
"Canon references & quotes"
1.) To establish the destructive firepower potential of blaster weapons
2.) Establish the potential energy requirements of blaster weapons
Anti-materiel Ability Against Metal Targets
Anti-materiel Ability Against Metal Targets
A blaster set to kill discharges a shot sufficient to incapacitate personnel and defeat body armour with a direct hit, however on this setting the weapons inflict little damage to heavier metallic targets, so shots only pockmark metal walls & bulkheads. In order to destroy heavy metal targets the operator must set their blaster to a higher power level setting.
A blaster set to full power can blast a war-droid completely apart with a single shot[¹] and may be used to breach metallic walls and to blast apart metal bulkheads[²][³][⁴][⁵] & supports[²]. Only targets protected by advanced blast-proof armour & deflector-shields can withstand bombardment.
"In the case of iron structures, substantially more explosive power [compared to masonry] is required relative to the volume of material to be broken up. Not only is iron much stronger than masonry, but the use of bore-holes or cavities is usually impractical so you must simply attach the explosives to the side of a the iron object to be destroyed. To destroy a cast-iron structural column, you would attach the charge to its base and tamp it as well as possible with dirt. The charge size would then be computed from the rule-of-thumb formula L=100d², where d is the diameter in feet and L is the charge of gelignite in pounds. Therefore, to destroy a six inch thick cast iron column, you would need to attach 25 pounds of gelignite: a very large and powerful explosive charge." - Science-Explosives[¹]
L=100d² suggests six and a quarter pounds, or nearly three kilograms of gelignite could blast through & penetrate a depth of iron comparable in thickness to the metal door seen being destroyed by E-11 blaster-fire. Detonation of this explosive would release almost 20 megajoules of energy.
On Tatooine 0 BBY, Imperial stormtroopers dilapidated a Jawa sandcrawler with precise shots from their blaster weapons; support-beams were destroyed, treads were disabled and the vehicles main portal (a 140mm metal bulkhead) was blasted in half[²][³]
The door was at least 60-76mm (2-3 in) thick.
"Leaving Luke to gape at the parallel sets of tracks, Kenobi turned his attention to the sandcrawler.
He pointed out where single weapons' bursts had blasted away portals, treads, and support beams."
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope novelisation
"In other words, single pinpoint shots destroyed entire support beams, and the support beams necessary for a vehicle of such great size would have to be enormously thick and strong. Even the act of destroying the huge treads alone would require heavy firepower; a modern soldier would be hard-pressed to do that kind of damage even with direct hits from a LAW or RPG. These men had no armoured vehicles; they were a "black ops" team, using dewbacks for mobility. The only weapons they had were the guns we saw them carrying, and with those guns, they were able to destroy a vehicle the size of a small apartment building." - Mike Wong, mechanical engineer, on the destruction of a Jawa sandcrawler by Imperial stormtroopers[¹] L=100d² indicates blasting through a 140mm iron door would require a blast yield of almost 60 megajoules.
George Lucas himself wrote about "laser pistols" being used to fire on metal bulkheads twice in his fourth edition draft of A New Hope[⁴]:
HAN (sarcastically) Oh! The garbage chute was a really wonderful idea. What an incredible smell you've discovered! Let's get out of here! Get away from there...
LUKE No! wait! Han draws his laser pistol and fires at the hatch. The laserbolt ricochets wildly around the small metal room. Everyone dives for cover in the garbage as the bolt explodes almost on top of them. Leia climbs out of the garbage with a rather grim look on her face.
LUKE Will you forget it? I already tried it. It's magnetically sealed!
In the film Luke Skywalker opens the metal door guarding Princess Leia's cell using a switch whereas in the novelisation[²] and in the fourth-edition draft:
"Luke stops in front of one of the cells and blasts the door away with his laser pistol. When the smoke clears, Luke sees the dazzling young princess-senator. She had been sleeping and is now looking at him with an uncomprehending look on her face. Luke is stunned by her incredible beauty and stands staring at her with his mouth hanging open."Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, fourth edition draft by George Lucas
- Poe Dameron #6
Masonry & Rock Blasting
Anti-materiel Ability Rock, Stone & Reinforced Concrete
Blasters can inflict heavy damage to rock, stone masonry and reinforced-concrete and are therefore capable of ad-hoc demolition in both natural & urban environments. The highest power setting on a DC-15 rifle can blast a half-meter wide hole 'through any duracrete wall'[⁸] and the DC-15A carbine could explosively shatter an almost meter-wide (3 ft) section of Geonosian stone[⁹]. Even blaster pistols set to high power can destroy walls and collapse parts of a building[¹⁰].
On Earth: R. McAdam and R. Westwater, Mining Explosives, Oliver and Boyd, 1958 provides the following rules of thumb for destroying rocky boulders using conventional-explosives through a method known 'plaster shooting:' (covering the boulder with explosive-plaster):
Thickness of Boulder
2 to 2½ feet
2½ to 3 feet
3 to 3½ feet
Explosive Charge (oz)
"Rock blasting in quarries is a highly developed technique in which the depth, diameter, and orientation of shot holes is critical to the effectiveness of the procedure, as well as the proper loading of each shot hole. However, given competent execution of all the aforementioned requirements, there are certain "rules of thumb" which one can use. The most basic rule is that the charge required for any given blasting operation and explosive type is directly proportional to the volume of the material to be blasted. In fact, one of the oldest methods of charge determination is to simply multiply the volume of rock by an "explosive coefficient" . This may seem obvious or redundant, but it is nevertheless important to note that this prediction has been confirmed in practice throughout centuries of practical mining.
To be more specific, you can generally fragment somewhere between 4 and 6 tons of rock for each pound of high explosive used, and 3 to 4 tons of rock per pound of gunpowder . But it should be noted that this ratio is based upon a highly optimized blasting pattern, with multiple shot holes drilled in various locations to distribute the shockwaves evenly throughout the rock face. Of course, this rule of thumb does not necessarily apply if the rock is of a highly unusual composition. Nevertheless, it is useful as a guide to the kind of energy necessary to fragment large volumes of rock if it is applied in the most efficient possible manner."
Explosives, stardestroyer.net, by mechanical engineer Mike Wong[¹]
To collapse a cave entrance on Vanqor clone-troopers administered a two-second, fourteen-shot barrage which explosively-decoupled hundreds of tonnes of once solid-stone.[¹¹] This was an ad-hoc demolition executed with DC-15A blaster carbines (presumably set to high-power). According to the quoted rules-of-thumb you might fragment a hundred tonnes of rock with 25 pounds (11.3 kg) of optimally distributed gunpowder, or up to 120 tonnes with a similar weight in contemporary high-explosive, but an ad-hoc or poorly executed demotion using less efficiently distributed explosive could potential multiply the amount required.
Explosive-Anti-Materiel Equivalent Yield describes the blast yield of a contemporary explosive comparative such as gelignite or high-explosive C-4 that could produce comparable anti-materiel effects to a shot from a blaster weapon set to full-power. A blaster bolt primarily super-heats its target around point of contact, causing melting & vaporisation, however at full-power these thermal effects can become so intense that they generate an explosion of concussive shock-waves & heated shrapnel. These explosions are powerful enough to inflict considerable damage to rock, reinforced-concrete and metal. These comparisons in destructive magnitude hint at the potential energy-yield content of a blaster bolt discharged from a pistol, carbine or rifle set to full power.
The Exlo-AM-Equiv. Yield of a blaster bolt, discharged from a pistol, carbine or rifle set to full power, when fired against rocky targets, stone & reinforced concrete is ~2-6 megajoules.
The Exlo-AM-Equiv. Yield of a blaster bolt, discharged from a carbine or rifle set to full power, when fired against metal targets is ~20-60 megajoules.
Brian Young, author of the Star Wars Turbolaser Commentaries and Scifights, contends that geometry, chemistry and input duration specifically dictate that a beam or a pulse discharged from a directed-energy-weapon (DEW) like a blaster or laser will produce less collateral & explosive damage than a conventional chemical or thermonuclear explosive of equal yield. For this reason Brian infers that in order to achieve similar explosive -destructive effects to an actual chemical or thermonuclear explosive comparative, using an energy-pulse discharged from a DEW, would actually require at least an order of magnitude greater energy input from the latter.
"There are three primary reasons why beam-weapons and bombs have different collateral effects...
"The first is simple geometry and you can see this picture here it's almost childishly simple in my opnion that a beam-weapon delivers all of its energy to one point or one target and the bomb spreads its energy in all directions simultaniously. [...] Right from the outset the bomb is spreading its energy in a infinite number of angles, the beam delivers its energy in one angle right to the target. [...]
A beam-weapon by simple geometry is like the ultimate shaped-charge."
"The second primary reason that beams and bombs have totally different effects are the target; lets say for instance if we're comparing turbolasers to nuclear weapons, of similar yield[...] the turbolaser pulse doesn't have any explosives (unlike a bomb) it hits the target and lets say its dirt, because its planetary bombardment, to cause any collateral damage it (the turbolaser pulse) has to vaporise the point-of-impact so violently that the expanding gasses spread out and cause collateral damage like an explosive. So to cause similar collateral damage to a nuke of equal yield it would have to convert the dirt into an explosive as effective as a thermonuclear weapon.[...] Dirt is not an explosive, and it would literally have to vaporise the dirt so violently that it becomes an explosive as violent as a similar yield thermonuclear bomb."
"The third primary reason why beams and bombs have different collateral effects is the pressure of the expanding gasses; the pressure say form an explosive is so great because the energy is released so fast, the shock-wave travels through the explosive so fast that's what causes the damage, it's not so much the energy released, it's the speed of energy release which is measured in microseconds. As the input duration decreases the pressure increaes, it's inversely proportional.
Now lets say for instance blasters and turbolasers, they input their energy sometimes in one frame of film sometimes in two frames of film, so that's one twenty-fourth to one twelfth of a second for a time average of one eighteenth of a second. So lets say for instance if we're comparing a blaster pulse to a charge of C-4, lets say there's a pound of C-4, and it explodes and that takes about six microseconds or so[..]. and the blaster pulse inputs its energy in one eighteenth second, that would mean the C-4 releases energy nine-thousand times faster than the input duration of the blaster pulse, so if they're of equal magnitude (in energy yield)[...] then because the input duration is nine thousand times faster the pressure is automatically at least (many times) greater than the target that's vaporised by the blaster pulse, just due to the input duration being nine thousand times faster, microseconds vs large fractions of a second. Now some people say what about low-explosives and high-explosives[...], but the difference between high-explosives and low-explosives is how many microseconds we're looking at, high-explosives are low microsecoonds and low-explosives would be a greater number of microseconds[...] it's still hundreds or even thousands of times faster than the input duration of a blaster pulse."
- Brian Young, SciFights (Raybeams part III, transcribed)
Mike Wong, mechanical engineer, implies similar conclusions regarding energy requirements to achieve comparable collateral explosive effects between DEW's and conventional-explosives in several of his commentaries, including "Science-Explosives" and "AOTC Revelations #2: The Technology".
"According to the SW2ICS, the midship guns have a per-shot yield of 2 kilotons, which would be enough to pulverize a well-consolidated 100-150 metre wide asteroid, assuming that the force-coupling efficiency of an energy bolt is equal to the force-coupling efficiency of a centrally buried chemical explosive. Of course, this is not the case, nor is it even close, so the 100-150 metre figure should be treated as an extremely generous estimate. An energy beam primarily heats the target, and the only form of force coupling is secondary, through gas expansion caused by rapid vapourization. Realistically, a 2 kiloton energy beam of perhaps 0.01 second duration would probably be limited to fragmenting an asteroid of only a few dozen metres in size rather than 100-150 (with a lot of heating, melting, and vapourization), which is closer to what we see in the film." - Mike Wong, mechanical engineer
So the actual energy-yield content of a blaster-bolt discharged from a pistol, carbine or rifle set to full power, quite possibly exceeds the previously quantified Exlo-AM-Equiv. Yields, and extends into the double to triple digit megajoule range.
The figures listed below are included to provide a general sense of scale for the energies involved. Of-course the way energy is actually used to do work is completely different between most of the examples included, for instance being hit by a landspeeder travelling at 115 km/h would produce very different results to being blown up by say, an MK3A2 concussion-grenade, yet both events involve the same amount of energy. One shot from a blaster set to full power might consume tens of KWH (kilowatt-hours) in energy from the weapons power pack, meaning that only a few shots could be fired before the weapon needs to be reloaded.
0.95 MJ - MK3A2 concussion-grenade, 2-m casualty radius in open-field
1 MJ - Kinetic energy of a 2 tonne vehicle at 32 metres per second (115 km/h or 72 mph)
2.59 MJ - min. energy to boil 1 kg of water at room temperature
3.6 MJ - 1 kWH (kilowatt-hour) (used for electricity)
4.184 MJ - 1 kg of TNT
6.5 MJ - 1 kg of C-4 explosive
7.4 MJ - 1 kg of dynamite
7.7 MJ - min. ~ energy to vaporise 1kg of iron
128 MJ - 1 gallon of gasoline
180 MJ - 1 microgram of antimatter + 1 microgram of matter
>1000 MJ - a bolt of lightning
Star Wars references
STAR WARS Episode III Attack of the Clones Video
STAR WARS A New Hope novelisation Quote
STAR WARS Episode IV A New Hope Image
Fourth edition draft script for A New Hope Quote
STAR WARS Rebels "The Wynkahthu Job" Video
Rebels Recon #3.08: Inside "The Wynkahthu Job" |
Star Wars Rebels (Behind the Scenes) Quote
STAR WARS Poe Cameron #6 Image
Star Wars Visual Guide Quote
Star Wars The Clone Wars "Legacy of Terror" Video
Star Wars The Clone Wars "Revival" Video
Star Wars The Clone Wars "Dooku Captured" Video
"[...]and then when we get to act III and the Sentry Droids are coming down the hallway we originally had in the script that the door was sealed shut and then the droids ended up having to blast through it, but if the doors sealed shut then there's a big hole in it (where Ezra has cut his way through) then its just a really funny moment."
- Rebels Recon #3.08: Inside "The Wynkahthu Job", behind the scenes on destruction of a metal door by Imperial Sentry Droids using E-11 blaster-weapons (originally the door not going to have a hole in it before getting destroyed)
Science-Explosives by mechanical engineer Micheal Wong
R. McAdam and R. Westwater, Mining Explosives, Oliver and Boyd, 1958
Oscar Guttmann, Blasting: A Handbook For The Use Of Engineers And Others Engaged In Mining, Tunnelling, Quarrying, Etc, Charles Griffin and Co., 1906.
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At higher power levels an NN-14 blaster pistol can blast a half meter wide hole through a half meter thick masonry wall Video