Home » Weapons » Armor » Army Won’t Quit Counter-IED Research

Army Won’t Quit Counter-IED Research

by philewing on November 18, 2011

Improvised explosive devices — the hand-cobbled roadside bombs that have taken a terrible toll on troops in Iraq and Afghanistan — are a lot like malaria, the Army’s chief scientist said Friday.

You can treat malaria, you can eradicate the conditions in which it occurs, but it’s been around a long time and probably it always will be, Army S&T boss Scott Fish told journalists at the Military Reporters and Editors conference outside Washington. That’s why the Army won’t stop searching for high-tech strategies to prevent, find and disable their use even as the wars wind down, he said.

Fish said a key goal is to try to force insurgents to make larger IEDs, because even though they pack a bigger punch, they’re harder to hide and easier for allied troops to spot and avoid. That means American commanders need to make the smaller IEDs as least effective as possible, so insurgents have no choice but to go for bigger bombs. To do that, the Army wants its vehicles to take damage better, troops’ helmets and armor to protect them better, and understand how to help soldiers recover quicker.

For example, Fish said the Army is studying the way reptiles and abalone develop their natural armor to try to make stronger materials for soldier gear. The future vehicles it wants to buy, including the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and the Ground Combat Vehicle, are being built from the wheels up with the IED threat in mind. And, Fish said, the Army wants to get to the point where it monitors individual soldiers to see how they respond to explosions.

The Army and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are collaborating on sensors that soldiers would wear on their uniforms to measure the blasts they absorb if they are caught in an IED, Fish said. That information might follow a soldier for the rest of his life, giving doctors detailed information that could help them prescribe treatment for traumatic brain injuries even years later.

Fish hinted there’s a lot more in the works to help tomorrow’s troops fight IEDs — but said he didn’t want to give many more details for fear of tipping his hand to the bad guys.

– Phil Ewing

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

blight2 November 18, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Doctrinally, we need to prioritize securing/destroying ammo dumps, certainly almost as much as destroying enemy Centers of Gravity. It is a bit of a tradeoff though: stopping to clear and destroy Tuwaitha and Iraqi army depots would have given Saddam time to dig in or even escape.

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nraddin November 18, 2011 at 2:53 pm

I can speak for everywhere but most of the stuff that I have seen coming from Afghanistan seems to be home made or commercial explosive as apposed to military ordnance. While I am sure there are plenty of military grade stuff getting used, it just kind of shows that if you take the military stuff away they will just make their own.

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blight2 November 18, 2011 at 4:22 pm

I imagine Iraq was a unique case because of Saddam's munitions hoarding.

Afghanistan probably exhausted its stockpiles of ex-Soviet aid during the civil wars. Home-made and commercial grade stuff will be harder to pin down, but at least they are more sensitive and less stable, and thus possibly more prone to killing bomb makers.

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nraddin November 18, 2011 at 4:44 pm

To make myself clear obviously you work on taking away any of the equipment they can use to wage war as best you can. Keeping military grade ordinance away from the enemy is a good start. However I think it's important to be realistic as to the results, even if we had secured every single munition in the country they will still find ways to attack us. Focusing on removal or security of ordnance is important but only a piece of the puzzle really.

Oh and I can't help but smile a little of at the picture you paint for me of the bomb maker blowing the crap out of himself. That's Justice, Karma and Irony all wrapped up into one..:)

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joe November 21, 2011 at 3:23 am

I just have a mental image of one of them using a mobile phone as a trigger for an IED, wiring it up ready to go – and then receiving an automated junk mail text…

"Oh, bugg…"

Chief November 27, 2011 at 3:31 pm

We have to change tactics to meet these threats. Get out of those death traps (vehicles) go light. Light Infantry tactics work best in this environment.

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Morty November 18, 2011 at 1:15 pm

IED's Are hard to find so good luck with that one

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Ron November 20, 2011 at 7:30 pm

It’s not luck, it's extremely brilliant scientist, I recently read an article where scientist can detect one molecule of explosive material with lasers.

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Lance November 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Well they can study this for now BUT when the budget cuts hit they may want to look at future conflicts instead of Iraq again.

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Josh November 18, 2011 at 6:12 pm

How much destructive power or penetrating power do most of these IEDS have? I have seen pictures of bradleys supposedly taken out by them butnit never stated size or design of the explosive. Basically my question is how tough will our future vehicles has to be to protect against shape charges or 155′s?

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TMB November 18, 2011 at 10:29 pm

It's not just 155s, its several 155s linked together. I'm not going to tell you how many shells or how to build one, but yes the stories are true. Pack enough explosives and nothing is safe. The size of the IED is contingent on what materials are available, how much time you've got to bury the weapon, and how deep of a hole you can dig. In Afghanistan they love to use fertilizer and other chemicals. In Iraq it was munitions. As far as designing a vehicle around that threat – you're extremely limited on how well you can armor the belly of a vehicle. You're never going to have the same protection as you would on the front and sides.

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Brian November 19, 2011 at 8:22 pm

You can put enough explosives in place to destroy any vehicle. Look at the OKC bombing, a truckload of fertilizer can vaporize a building. However, the more armor you put on a vehicle, the bigger the bomb you need to blow it up. The goal is to put enough armor on the vehicles so that IEDs become impractical. If you have X amount of explosives, maybe you can only make 10 bombs instead of 50.

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joe November 21, 2011 at 3:25 am

Hell, main battle tanks have lost tracks and roadwheels to IEDs before now.
You can always make a bigger bomb – which the author acknowledges. But if the bomb has to be three or four artillery shells strapped together, that starts to get bloody hard to hide.

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Robert A Potts November 21, 2011 at 1:59 pm

An IED in Iraq was so powerful, when detonated, it blew a 25 ton AAV with almost two dozen marines inside some 50 feet in the air and was completely destroyed. A lone marine survived by some miracle. Andrew

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Ben November 22, 2011 at 11:50 pm

I hate to say this but 155's are not much against an armored vehicle unless your packing 10+

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morris wise November 18, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Mother Russia and the Chinese Dragon are prepared and well fed. It would be suicidal to drop thousands of paratroopers on Moscow or Beijing; they would disappear into the night. Military strength has become symbolic, future wars will be won by economic strength not by swat teams.

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joe November 21, 2011 at 3:25 am

Didn't you post this in the other thread?

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Backpack November 22, 2011 at 6:04 pm

The next war won’t be against Russia or China, it will be against another bunch of nutjobs who don’t give a monkey’s about economics.

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Stephen N Russell November 18, 2011 at 8:59 pm

Time to use robots, lowflying drones to sense IEDs, "snifffers" for explosive "scent".
sense IEDs & machine gun area??? or use flame thrower?
Or spray some chem foam to jam IED parts, Unit frezes up, wont detonate.

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fromage November 22, 2011 at 2:27 pm

this was a dumb post.

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Evan November 18, 2011 at 10:38 pm

The title of this article is all I need to know. Keep up the good/invaluable work!!!

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Elijah November 18, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Being all you can be plus some more. It makes an old man feel just a little saver here.

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Kyle November 30, 2011 at 12:14 pm

The only thing, I'm sad to say, that will cure these IED's, is more troops but then again if there were no troops there would be no need for IED's. IED's will always be a problem in war so why we should stop any counter IED research is beyond me.

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David March 29, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Do like we did in Vietnam. Set anbushes, search and engagements during the night. Also from 1800 to 0600 you can engage and kill anyone violating this curfew. Announce your intentions and only bad guys will violate it. Send them to Paradice. There won't any left to carry and set the bombs. Sure some will make it but many wont, Less young Americans dying.

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blight2 November 18, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Dogs aren't a perfect solution. Do you propose to send teams of dog handlers to go up and down MSRs and be exposed to sniper attack? How many dogs does this take up? Can a dog jam a RF IED?

I think we've done as much as we can do when it comes to designing countermeasures to remotely detonated IEDs, and now it's back to timers and trigger-based systems.

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Robert A Potts November 21, 2011 at 1:46 pm

I say we start using the honey bees again. Only spent $50,000,000 on that one and it seemed to work. Andrew

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