Semtex — 10 Mistakes

Freely after RING magazine – the issue of September 17, 1998

Countless newspaper articles were published on SEMTEX® explosive that describe, with greater or smaller measure of authenticity and acquaintance, the properties of this explosive and speak about the cases of misuse with expertness. The myth has been successfully created during ten years on miraculous and non-detectable explosive. The explosive spun round with myths brings foreign journalists into extasy. In almost every report on explosion everywhere in the world an information appears that blames SEMTEX® for everything. Hysteria about SEMTEX® got to the point that in Great Britain the words SEMTEX® and plastic explosive are, to some extent, synonymum. In the Ring magazine the article was published in 1998 with the above given title that tried to put the most widespread mistakes right.

At a series of terrorist explosions abroad SEMTEX® is reported as a common denominator till nowadays. However, no expert can say a few hours after explosion, what was the explosive involved. Serious sources state that no SEMTEX® has ever been used in the U.S.A. and that in Great Britain the use of this plastic industrial explosive has been proved in five per cent of all cases only. The misuse of explosive as well as any other industrial product cannot be influenced by the producer. There are thousands of users of various explosives in the world and, according to the police experience, it is just them the stolen explosives come from. The more often SEMTEX® has been written about , the more mistakes have appeared.

The first mistake: the Presidential one

Many years the fact has been spoken about, that from 1974 to 1981 ( export into risky countries was prohibited in those times) one thousand tons of SEMTEX® was exported to Libya, as mentioned in one interview by the President Václav Havel in 1990. Even if it was not Synthesia to trade with this explosive in those times, but foreign trade companies, the experts have been wagging their heads in astonishment over this number up till now.
According to all information ascertained, during the whole time of production 690 tons of plastic explosives was produced for export.

The second mistake: the strongest explosive

The strongest plastic explosive in the world. A few grams is enough to destroy an aircraft. Explosive SEMTEX® is not exceptional in its performance, it is on the same level as a series of foreign explosives of its category. SEMTEX® differs from other plastic explosives only by having the binder system (ensuring long-term plasticity) of different composition.

The third mistake: it will last forever

Popularity of plastic explosives consists in their capability to be shaped well. They are safe to store. SEMTEX® is usually said to last forever, which is also the case of the Libyan shipment. It follows from the long-term testing, that in usual storage environment the plasticity will last for several years. But according to available information from Africa, in extreme temperature conditions SEMTEX®loses its plasticity, gets hard and disintegrates.

The fourth mistake: cannot be detected

Synthesia Semtín started marking of explosives according to international agreements in 1991, it means even before the then Czechoslovakia acceded to the convention on marking and seven years before the convention entered into force. At present time SEMTEX® can be detected using technical means. The technique got to the point, that it is possible to detect the original, not marked SEMTEX®. The marking that would identify the explosive with certainty even after explosion is not commonly practised by the world producers of plastic explosives and by Explosia a.s. either.

The fifth mistake: the only producer

Plastic explosives are produced in a number of advanced countries. C-4 explosive is of American origin, other countries producing these explosives are Russia, Great Britain (PE-4), France, Yugoslavia, Monte Negro, Greece, Poland…
It is remarkable that as early as 1995 the Czech Police detained three men with several tens kilogram of American explosive C-4.

The sixth mistake: there is no terror without SEMTEX®

Trading with plastic explosives on the black market is dangerous. Today the terrorists know that explosive can be produced of practically anything in a relatively simple way. You can be sure to find instruction how to produce effective explosive from industrial fertiliser on the Internet. Even a Jules Verne books lover can learn in one of them how to prepare gunpowder.

The seventh mistake: Explosia a.s. will become bankrupt

Popular statement is, that the moment when production of SEMTEX® stops will bring about the end of Explosia a.s. All types of SEMTEX® explosive represent only a fraction of per cent of all produced explosives and propellants.

The eighth mistake: the inventor of SEMTEX®

Explosion in the spa building in Jeseník a few years ago became the basis of romantic story: the inventor of SEMTEX® explosive, Bohumil Šole, remorseful about what his invention brought about, committed suicide. The reality is, however, quite different. Production of SEMTEX® started in Synthesia in 1964. In the sixties, when Mr. Šole was already working here he was injured when explosive exploded not far from him and since then he suffered from depressions as a result of that injury. In the eighties he participated in testing of aircraft destruction for the Czechoslovak Army and Ministry of Interior of the Czechoslovak Republic. It was him who wanted to patent aircraft destruction by means of plastic explosives. In the end of the eighties he had some difficulties with StB (State Secret Police) that lead to a trial in the end of 1989, later the verdict was annuled to the full extent. Mr. Šole worked in the Sales Department of the company till 1989. By no means we can contest his enormous experience in the field of explosives. He, however, was not a member of the team that developed SEMTEX®.

The ninth mistake: Fabulous prices

Legends go about fabulous prices for one kilogram of SEMTEX® explosive. In every case it is, however, a matter of absurd and stilted figures. Unfortunately, their presentation in the media can be one of the motives for stealing SEMTEX® from the Army depots, or, for amateur production according to more or less credible recipes obtained from Internet.

The tenth mistake: Production of SEMTEX® is not secured

“Sure” information appear in press from time to time, that the state or producer are incapable of securing production of SEMTEX®explosive, possibly of making impossible its illegal export. Last year a “sure” information appeared in foreign press on getting of one “also journalist” directly into production buildings where he walked freely between “bubbling vessels with semtex”. The legend of “infernal explosive” seems to be very inspiring.

And what will be the next published mistakes? The time and “serious” media will show us.