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The Afghan Insurgents’ Low Tech IED

by John Reed on July 7, 2011

Here’s an excerpt from a great piece by Michael Yon that’s running over at sister site, Line of Departure, detailing the Afghan insurgents latest move to counter Western anti-IED tech; the “snapper” bomb.

As Yon explains it, the U.S. and its allies have become very adept at defeating the radio controlled bombs that were hitting coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan several years ago; and while simple pressure plate mines can’t be jammed they can be triggered by anyone, not just the intended target. This can create civilian casualties and waste the bomb. Enter the low-tech, remote controlled snapper:

The snapper uses a tire for a diaphragm in which nails are used for contacts.  When a vehicle rolls over a snapper, the circuit closes.  To avoid CIVCAS, the enemy waits in hiding with a battery.  One of the electrodes is connected.  Traffic is allowed to roll over the snapper but there is no explosion.  When the target approaches, the enemy attaches the other connection and now the snapper is ARMED.

When the circuit closes this time, juice flows to the bomb, which must be very substantial to defeat our armor, but if the target is lesser-equipped Coalition forces or perhaps unarmored Afghans, it can be small.

 

 

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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

alex July 7, 2011 at 4:09 pm

How is that better than a wired, command detonated bomb?

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blight July 7, 2011 at 4:14 pm

This sounds more like a very primitive switch for a comdet bomb?

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blight_two July 7, 2011 at 4:18 pm

The correct link is http://www.michaelyon-online.com/the-snapper.htm

Line of Departure is someone else's blog

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blight July 7, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Alternatively, it suggests that they're running out of materials to build proper detonators…

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Raraavis July 7, 2011 at 4:30 pm

The only advantage I can see to this is once the insurgent can see the vehicle coming he can activate the bomb and then begin to make his escape before the bomb even detonates. On a long mountain road you may be able to see a vehicle coming from a long distance. Activate the bomb and get to a safe place before the bomb detonates.

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anon July 7, 2011 at 7:38 pm

The other advantage I can see us that the "controller" doesn't need to see the actual IED, but can be positioned anwhere where they can see the approaches. This means that the IEDs can be situated in choke points, whilst enabling the insurgents to stay out of the immediate proximity (the area that would naturally be swept for IED controllers around choke points)

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Riceball July 8, 2011 at 10:31 am

But they still have to be connected to the IED via wires which will still limit where the "controller" can hide.

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1-0 Meadows August 20, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Im not an expert but I am pretty sure its because the jammers equipped on NATO vehicles can't keep it from exploding. As well as the fact that it is, as said in the article, easier for the opfor to safeguard against smaller, possibly unintended targets.

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blight July 7, 2011 at 4:15 pm

FYI, wrong link. And "Line of Departure" is Carl Prine.
http://www.michaelyon-online.com/the-snapper.htm

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blight2 July 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Line of Departure is run by Carl Prine (and seems to hate Michael Yon. Googling for both gives headlines like "Michael Yon is crazy").

Correct link is:
http://www.michaelyon-online.com/the-snapper.htm

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anon July 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm
@winsettz July 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Line of Departure is someone else's blog.

Michael Yon's blog (and the correct link) is:
http://www.michaelyon-online.com/the-snapper.htm

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anon July 7, 2011 at 4:19 pm
blight July 7, 2011 at 4:21 pm
blight July 7, 2011 at 4:23 pm

That link is wrong. Michael Yon's page is elsewhere (and every time I paste the link in here, my posts are removed?)

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blight July 7, 2011 at 5:21 pm
McPosterdoor July 7, 2011 at 5:48 pm

The DangerRoom piece that was featured on NPR by Shachtman covers why they aren't using remote detonation, and it seems as though that is what we want, a trigger man closer to the bomb that can be tracked down easier. Link to follow…
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/06/iraqs-inv

Perhaps its just me but those NV attachments on the helmets in this pic just look like big ass head shot targets, why aren't those cammo? B/C if those aren't (as well as weapons) why is the rest of their kit?

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blight July 7, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Figured they'd go back to command-det stuff, but the snapper seems to indicate they're short on parts to make more "proper" detonators. Alternatively, stuff like tire strips, nails, wire and batteries are likely to be easy to find and will survive inspection at a military checkpoint.

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Chuck July 8, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Cammo doesn't make you invisible, just breaks up your outline. A black dot in the middle doesn't change that analysis much. If they're walking down the road, (like in that picture) obviously the black dot makes no difference because you can see them just fine either way. If they were dug in, from far away it would probably just look like a small rock (or shadow of a small rock). What you don't want is for the whole helmet to be one color, because then from any vantage point it's just gonna look like a helmet.

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McPosterdoor July 8, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Tru Dat

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blight July 8, 2011 at 3:44 pm

His point is probably that since the NV bracket is a square, and square shapes are out of place in any environment…

Then again, it's a matter of how far away you are, and what range you're in by the time this kind of thing is observable.

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paul July 7, 2011 at 9:44 pm

stick the ied up thier butts and they with go off with the body oder of the camel smell.

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CavGuy02 July 7, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Technically, this is not a command wire but a "victim initiated" IED. The Taliban moved away from command det to victim b/c they were having issues gauging coalition speed and were either pre deting or post deting the IED. The victim initiated allows for maximum damage to the TC and driver and engine/wheels/drive train AND disables the vehicle causing it to be removed by wrecker/dragging/M88/whatever. They reduce civilian casualties through normal pressure devices on busy road networks and they disable a vehicle which is seen by the population being dragged off the battlefield. Who scares you more? Some guy who shows up handing out radios and toys or a guy who takes $35 worth of trash and takes out a vehicle costing a few hundred thousand USD?

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blight July 7, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Yeah, the snapper makes it victim initiated, but the whole "connect the battery" suggests some sort of final activation system by the user. But in the end, I guess victim initiated makes more sense

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Kevin July 7, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Sounds like a basic pressure plate IED with a twist. And as for the "low tech ied" title…isnt the nature of IED's the fact that they are low tech? It IS improvised after all.

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blight July 7, 2011 at 11:53 pm

It's more like "improvised pressure-switch" for an improvised explosive device. The general definition of an IED involves explosives, the battery and a fairly sophisticated initiation system: a cell phone. A garage door opener. A clacker. This is a tire and two nails.

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Detritus Screener July 9, 2011 at 12:52 am

An improvised pressure plate device with an of/off switch is exactly what it is. All they are doing is allowing themselves to arm it when our troops are the next in line to cross it. This can be done by radio freq or by wire or by a piece of string pulling a switch. It makes no difference. It just allows them to place the IED at their convienece without concern of it detonating on the wrong target. They could have it buried in place days in advance with little concern and be ready instantly. They can then activate and deactivate itfrom a distance when they are ready.

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psypher July 8, 2011 at 10:27 am

this reminds me of a JIEDDO project I worked on awhile back, except one of the things we kept running into is that depending on manufacturing origin, some nails were more electro-conductive than others (detonation/timing was all f-ed up and completely unpredictable within 1 to <.6 sec)…

(and no, that info is no longer classified)

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blight July 8, 2011 at 11:34 am

Galvanized nails versus oxidized steel nails?

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psypher July 9, 2011 at 5:36 am

Thats what I initially thought as well, but no.

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psypher July 9, 2011 at 5:43 am

It doesn't matter if the nails were hot-dipped or not, what matters is the ratio of iron content in the nails themselves…

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blight July 8, 2011 at 11:34 am

Eventually they will go with ATGMs. Luckily they have no patron who can supply them abundantly (and until then, the Hezbollah case is an aberration).

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Morty July 8, 2011 at 11:44 am

so Its just another low tech bomb that they built in there basment with all their free time

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Lance July 8, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Low tech or not it can kill you easily!

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Bhu July 8, 2011 at 11:56 pm

Iraqi IED mostly used discarded munitions like artillery shells. Afghan IED are normally 'cruder', fertilizer based bombs – truly homemade.

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psypher July 9, 2011 at 5:52 am

thats actually not true anymore…

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Blight July 9, 2011 at 8:08 am

Meaning Afghans are getting mortar and artillery shells?

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psypher July 9, 2011 at 7:18 pm

…meaning they got MLRS from a certain country :-)

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blight July 9, 2011 at 8:54 pm

Yuck. You mean like tiny rockets like Katyushas and Grads?

Detritus Screener July 9, 2011 at 12:56 am

An improvised pressure plate device with an of/off switch is exactly what it is. All they are doing is allowing themselves to arm it when our troops are the next in line to cross it. This can be done by radio freq or by wire or by a piece of string pulling a switch. It makes no difference. It just allows them to place the IED at their convienece without concern of it detonating on the wrong target. They could have it buried in place days in advance with little concern and be ready instantly. They can then activate and deactivate it from a distance when they are ready.

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spasticsteve July 10, 2011 at 2:45 pm

instead of staying on some roads…why not do a little bit of off roading to bypass IEDs…im sure most of the vehicles wouldnt mind lol

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blight July 7, 2011 at 5:20 pm

The wording is a bit confusing. I am rearranging the sentences for clarity, as I see it…

"To avoid CIVCAS, the enemy waits in hiding with a battery. [Only] One of the electrodes is connected. "

"When the target approaches, the enemy attaches the other connection and now the snapper is ARMED."

"When a vehicle rolls over a snapper, the circuit closes."

Boom.

In this sequence, it sounds like there are two weakpoints. One, the vehicle has to roll over the snapper. Two, the user has to connect the battery up just before the target vehicle rolls over the snapper.

Whereas with clackers, you just engage at the appropriate moment for boom.

Maybe they're running out of equipment? Afghanistan was never as abundant with military gear and modern appliances as Iraq was (garage door openers for IR/radio detonation, cell phones and infrastructure for cell phone bombs, washing machines for timing mechanisms…)

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marvel July 8, 2011 at 3:47 am

How would the bomber know if they ran over the tire?

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blight July 8, 2011 at 7:43 am

They'd have to see it. Putting the bomber in line of sight.

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