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Improvised Explosive Devices

Improvised explosive devices are bombs which are designed and deployed in unconventional military action. They comprise of detonating mechanisms and conventional explosives. They have been used by insurgents, guerillas and commando units during conflicts. They have been extensively used in the current Iraq war and have accounted for at least forty percent of coalition deaths. Other organizations like Hezbollah, LTTE, Chechen insurgents, PKK have extensively used IEDs against conventional military forces. IEDs have been used in the USS Cole bombing and World Trade Centre bombing in 1993 (Slotnick, 2007).

An IED consists of destructive and lethal chemicals used to destroy or disrupt personnel or vehicles. They are used to distract or delay an opposing force. They may comprise of military, commercial or home made explosives. An IED comprises of an explosive charge, detonator and system to initiate the electrical charge that sets off the device. They can also be used against armored targets. There is great diversity in the design of IEDs. They can be triggered by radio, remote control, infra red or magnetic triggers. In some cases multiple IEDs are connected to destroy large numbers of personnel and equipment.

Sophisticated devices have been constructed by insurgent groups using munitions and electronic components like mobile phones, washing machine timers or garbage door openers. Some inexperienced designers use substandard materials which may result in pre mature detonation that usually kills the designers. The majority of IEDs use conventional explosives for their explosive load. The threat of biological, chemical and radioactive materials exists which could create extensive casualties and life threatening effects. Sometimes insurgent groups use cars or trucks to deliver huge payloads of explosives against military and civilian targets.

Such IEDs are known as vehicle borne IEDs. Radio controlled IEDs remain one of the most formidable weapons used by insurgents in many conflicts like the current Iraq war. They have been rarely seen before the 1970s. Available radio technology has been used in these types of IEDs. Toys and hobbyist systems have also been used in the design of radio controlled IEDs. The Iraq war has seen the proliferation and use of technically complex systems. Cell phones, pagers, hand held radios and home made electronics system are used as components of radio controlled IEDs.

Radio controlled IEDs allow insurgents to operate from a safe distance. They are easy to lay and do not require time consuming wire laying. The technology is easily available and easy to obtain. Radio controlled IEDs are placed on, under or adjacent to a route used by the target. There are various methods by which Radio controlled IEDs are deployed. One way is coupling in which explosives are linked with a detonating cord. Another method is rolling in which an unfuzed device sets off another fuzed device. Linked devices can create large lethal engagement area (Global Secuirty. Org, 2007).

These IEDs aim at the soft sides of unprotected vehicles and armored vehicles. They are effective from a distance of several meters. Sometimes they are used at stopping the softer vehicles of a convoy forcing other vehicles to halt. The heavier vehicles are attacked by special teams using small arms fire and RPG. Protecting vehicles against radio controlled IEDs is impossible. The cheap availability of expertise and materials makes it possible to easily construct and design IEDs. Radio controlled IEDs are activated once insurgents send an activating signal using a radio transmitter to a radio receiver.

They have become the weapon of choice because they maximize damage, create fear and terrorize people. They can be roadside bombs, radio fired mines and remote controlled explosives. Physical protection and tactical conduct of operation are the best countermeasures against IEDs. Armor technologies are effective in countering IEDs. They consist of steel and aluminum armor. Ballistic liners are effective against radio controlled IEDs. They can absorb melted metal spall generated during penetration of main armor. Electronic jamming systems have also been designed and mounted on military vehicles.

They use low power radio frequency energy to block the signal of radio controlled explosives. The jammers are effective only if they are within the right frequency range of the radio controlled IED. Other countermeasures are being developed to detect IEDs from a far distance. Such devices would generate a pulse of high power electromagnetic energy to prematurely detonate or destroy the radio controlled IED circuitry (Wilson, 2005). Radio controlled IEDs will remain the weapon of choice for insurgent groups because of the cheap availability of components and their ability to create fear amongst people.

Such devices are composed of conventional munitions and electronic components. Mobile phones, garbage door openers, washing machine timers, pagers and electronic components have widely been used as triggers for radio controlled IEDs. The United States and other countries are currently investing in technologies that will jam, burn or destroy radio controlled IEDs.

References: (2007). Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) / Booby Traps. Retrieved January 15, 2008, from Global Secuirty. Org Web site:

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