Skip to main content

The Air Force’s new thermite torch liquifies metal locks in seconds

Sorry bad guys, terrorists, and other enemies of the state: your metal barriers and locks are no match for American ingenuity. A collaborative effort between the U.S. Air Force and defense contractor Energetic Materials and Products has resulted in a new tool that can cut through metal in a matter of seconds.

They’re calling it the TEC Torch, but its name doesn’t do it justice. The torch shoots out a mix of vaporized metal and particulate matter at temperatures exceeding 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This is twice the temperature required to melt steel, and sufficient to melt just about any other metal for that matter either.

The idea for the TEC Torch was born out of need by military personnel for a quick way to bust locks and metal barriers out in the field. Obviously a quicker way than the traditional lock cutter is desirable, given the dangerous environments our men and women in uniform find themselves in.

Generating the heat necessary requires a great deal of fuel though. As such, the torch is powered by replaceable cartridges that last about two seconds each. It might be a little inconvenient for larger-scale barriers, but the Air Force and EMPI were looking for portability first. With the TEC Torch measuring in at about 12 to 14 inches long and 1.5 inches and diameter, it looks like they’ve done just that. And it’s light too; the heaviest models weigh less than a pound even with the cartridge installed.

Despite its initial focus being on the military, EMPI has also sent about 600 units to state and local law enforcement as well. Outside of these uses, the company sees potential for use in rescue, deep water diving exploration, and salvage operations. While the current version is already in production, other versions of the torch will soon be ported for uses with miniature robots, and for miniature cutters aimed for use in the oil industry, EMPI says.

Editors' Recommendations

Ed Oswald
For fifteen years, Ed has written about the latest and greatest in gadgets and technology trends. At Digital Trends, he's…
IKEA’s new air purifier is a design masterpiece that won’t break the bank
Förnuftig Air Purifier

Air purifiers are great to have around the home, especially now that spring has arrived and brought with it a wave of evil pollen invaders ready to wage war on your sinuses. The problem with so many of them s that they're either too large to comfortably fit into small apartments or their price is too high for your wallet.

Indoor air quality has a huge impact on your overall health, and poor air quality leads to more instances of asthma, as well as heart disease, cancer, and a number of other serious health conditions.

Read more
Autonomous drones are helping to keep a U.S. Air Force base in California secure
Easy Aerial drone

Travis Air Force, Easy Aerial partner up for Autonomous Drone Based Security Operations

Security is a big concern when it comes to the military, and the powers that be have no shortage of impressive, cutting-edge technologies they can call into service to help achieve this goal. We recently wrote about the deployments of dog robots to patrol Tyndall Air Force Base near to Panama City, Florida. Now Travis Air Force Base in California is testing out autonomous drones to help keep the goings-on at the military site away from prying eyes.

Read more
‘Skyborg’: U.S. Air Force seeks fleet of autonomous planes
Illustration of the ATS F/A-18, part of Boeing's Airpower Teaming System

The U.S. Air Force is getting serious about working with autonomous aircraft and aims to acquire an entire fleet of drones to act as robotic wingmen under its "Skyborg" program, National Defense Magazine reports.

As autonomous aircraft get more sophisticated, they could provide invaluable support to crewed fighter jets or bombers by escorting them into dangerous territories. The Air Force has said it is looking to purchase AI-powered craft to begin testing out their capabilities alongside crewed fighter jets.

Read more