The Explosives Research and Development Division (ERDD) works to improve the safety and security of explosive storage, the safe disposal of explosives, and the investigation of explosive incidents.
The ERDD is staffed by certified explosive specialists, forensic chemists, engineers and program managers who test various improvised explosive materials and devices to determine the level of damage they may cause. The ERDD supports ATF’s field operations by researching and evaluating methods to prevent the criminal misuse of improvised explosive devices.
ERDD personnel evaluate new technologies for special agents and industry operations investigators to assist with disposal of explosives and explosion analysis in the field. They also provide technical support during explosives investigations.
The ERDD also conducts research and analyzes explosive materials, detonators and blasting agents to determine if they need to be restricted by a federal explosive license or permit. Explosives deemed harmful are published in the annual List of Explosives Materials.
ERDD is located within the National Center for Explosives Training and Research (NCETR) at Redstone Arsenal. This gives staff access to test ranges and training facilities to provide direct investigative support on explosives-related matters to ATF.
NCETR’s three laboratories are equipped with the latest technology tools to allow staff to conduct research and analysis on various explosives. Of the three, two are synthesis labs that allow for remote combining of sensitive high explosives before they are moved to the testing range. The remaining lab is the engineering lab, used to identify potential explosive capabilities of various energy compounds. Staff use high-speed imaging camera and conduct plate dent testing to estimate blast strengths of explosive materials.
ATF regularly partners with the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, academia, the private sector and other law enforcement agencies to increase awareness about the illegal use of explosives while focusing on ways to improve public safety.
In 2018, ERDD partnered with ATF’s Denver Field Division, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, and Invariant Corporation to study the FireFly gunfire detection system. The FireFly is a mobile, gunfire and explosion geolocation system detects small arms fire and explosions. After testing, the system was used to detect gunfire incidents and collect shell casings by the Colorado police department. Casings were then entered into ATF’s National Integrated Ballistics Information Network. The Denver Crime Gun Intelligence Center analyzed the results and were able to link the casings to several serial gang shootings.
For questions on ATF’s research and development efforts, please email NCETR-Mailbox@atf.gov.