Saturday, August 02, 2008

Booby-Trapped Highways in Iraq

Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) have been the main cause of death for coalition troops in Iraq. Multiple patrol and supply convoys are always traveling from place to place in Iraq, and no road can be assumed safe. What are the counter-measures?
...Up to 80 percent of US casualties during the past two years of the conflict had been caused by IED attacks. In 2006, some road patrol units in Anbar province were discovering or setting off up to 10 IEDs each night patrol while covering less than a mile of roadway...

[But] Investment in "alien-looking" mine-detection equipment by the U.S. military, combined with increased funding for Iraqi police and army units, has cut the number of improvised explosive attacks in the past year in the northern part of the country from 6,000 a month a year ago to less than 500 this month.

Fully 75 percent of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) emplaced in parts of Iraq are now being discovered before they explode, the US Army said.

...To combat the explosive tire, engineer battalions now use several pieces of newly developed equipment that have little use outside of bomb discovery. The first looks like a mating of an industrial road-grader and a pawn-shop robotic arm.

Called a 'Husky', the South African-made mine detector allows its single operator to control a 20-foot-long robotic arm with a camera and two-pronged claw at the end to find out what is inside an abandoned tire, all at a safe distance. The occupant of the Husky sits 12 feet above the ground in a blast-proof cab.

In this case, the tire was holding an anti-tank mine, probably Italian or Chinese-made, containing enough explosives to seriously damage a vehicle if it ran directly over it.

To destroy the tire bomb, the Army has come to depend on an even more outlandish, but highly effective piece of equipment – the Talon – a robotic remote-controlled tread vehicle with an on-board video camera to verify and then destroy the IED without putting humans in harm's way. The Talon can then use a small robotic arm to carry counter-charges, in this case, two sticks of C-4 explosive with a time-fuse. _LWJ
Militaries are typically unwieldy bureaucracies (like all government bureaucracies) that are slow to adjust to changing threats. When a threat becomes as large and enduring as IEDs became in Iraq, however, even the military had to respond. Whether the new anti-IED technologies are more responsible for safer roads than the improved living conditions in Iraq, can be debated. Both are important.

The threat of IEDs along roadsides is merely an extension of the roadside ambush that can be traced all the way back to the stalking of watering holes by predators, waiting for prey to come and drink. Primitive humans placed snares along known pathways and flightways of unwary birds and small mammals.

Every road on Earth is subject to IEDs and mines. Iraq is a world battlefield, where tactics from the world jihad are being pitted against counter tactics from civilised countries. Civilised countries do not always win such confrontations. Such running battles depend upon the willingness to strike while the iron is hot. Any civilisation that is too slow or reluctant to confront a ruthless enemy puts itself in needless danger.

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