Army Won’t Quit Counter-IED Research

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

  • Morty

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

    • Ron

      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.

  • Lance

    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.

  • Josh

    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?

    • TMB

      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.

    • Brian

      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.

      • joe

        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.

    • Robert A Potts

      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

    • Ben

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

  • morris wise

    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.

    • joe

      Didn’t you post this in the other thread?

    • Backpack

      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.

  • Stephen N Russell

    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.

    • fromage

      this was a dumb post.

  • Evan

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

  • Elijah

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

  • Kyle

    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.

    • David

      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.