Special operations troops are always looking for smaller, lighter and more effective tools to help them with their often demanding missions. For a long time U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) has been very intent on finding smaller and more effective breaching (breaking and entering) tools. In 2013 a company (supported by U.S. Air Force research funds) came up with a workable solution. It was the very portable TEC (Thermal Erosive Cutting) Torch. Basically it’s a handheld cutting torch using expendable cartridges that used a mixture of thermite and other chemicals to burn through most anything. The “standard” cartridge can cut through 18mm (.75 inches) of hard steel in two seconds. A second version, the Plate Penetrator, can cut an 8.9mm (.35 inch) hole through 12.7mm (half an inch) of hard steel in two seconds. Because of the chemicals used the TEC Torch can also be used underwater. Thus it has special appeal for SEALs.
A ready to use TEC Torch weighs .45 kg (one pound) and is 33 cm (13 inches) long and 38.1mm (1.5 inches) in diameter. About half the weight is the cartridge, which can be quickly replaced after use. A larger version of the cartridge in in development that will cut through 50mm rods or penetrate 32mm (1.25 inch) plate. SOCOM has already obtained “several hundred” kits
The TEC Torch sells (for about a thousand dollars each) as a kit with a handle and four cartridges plus the protective glove the user wears and a DVD with a training video. Each new user is usually qualified after viewing the video and actually using one cartridge.