Inside DOD

By Amber Corrin

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DOD looks to unconventional methods in fight against IEDs

Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, have been the bane of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: lethal, difficult to detect and all too common.

As the defining weapon of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, IEDs killed 9,137 coalition troops, Afghan troops and civilians in Afghanistan in 2010, and 10,256 coalition troops, Iraqi troops and civilians in Iraq in 2010, according to the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization’s 2010 annual report.

They’re also spreading beyond southwest Asia, averaging 260 IED events per month outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the report.

To deal with the daunting threat, JIEDDO is getting creative in the methods it’s employing to defeat IEDs, including the use of specialized intelligence focusing on IED source materials, and also robots being developed in conjunction with the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

As many as 80 percent of IEDs in Afghanistan are made from ammonium nitrate originating from Pakistani fertilizer plants, said Army Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, JIEDDO program executive officer. At a Land Warfare Institute briefing Nov. 10 in Arlington, Va., Barbero pushed for better intelligence that hones in on how the materials are getting from the plants in Pakistan into the hands of terrorists.

That increased focus on intelligence is proving fruitful already, but there’s still much progress that must be made, he said.

“From these two legally operating factories in Pakistan, we know where they are producing, we know who their distributors are -- and we are getting great support from them,” he said. “What we don't understand is how this ammonium nitrate gets from the factories to these insurgents. That’s the greatest intelligence gap we have.”

With that information, the military can track financial data – and can enlist in the Treasury and State departments to help, Barbero said.

DOD also is looking at another avenue of attack: robotic tools that can help dismounted troops investigate more safely. JIEDDO recently coordinated with NIST on a three-week testing exercise in which the performance of the six robots JIEDDO tested, and that of more than 80 that were previously tested at the same site by the Homeland Security Department.

“The intended outcome is to establish a baseline for performance in standard robotics functions,” Matt Way, program integrator, who oversaw the event for JIEDDO, said in a media release. “Ultimately, these exercises will reduce performance risk in theater.”

Posted by Amber Corrin on Nov 15, 2011 at 7:25 PM

Reader Comments

Mon, Mar 5, 2012 MAJ Sandra Vasquez Ft Leavenworth KS

The IED fight is now a globsal threat, not just channelized to Iraq and Afhanistan. It is by far the weapon of choice for the enemy. Homemade explosive made from commom fertilizers is their first choice. Although, Ammonia Nitrate was banned in Afghanistan, we need to focus on how it is making it in the country from Pakistan. The deployment of more ISR assets along the border may add a benefit? Also, working with the manufactures to see if their is an alternative to the ingridients in production to reduce the volatility. I believe we are making great progress in the training of soldiers prior to their deployment with Home Station Training (HST) better preparing them when they encounter IEDS during their missions.We must continue to win the hearts and minds of the Afghanistan people through non-kinetic efforts. We have to convince the neutral networks to become friendly networks through key leader engagements and humanitarian efforts, thus making harder for the threat networks to freely emplace the devices.

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 Rinleader1 ( "G") LI, NY

"we know who their distributors are" but, what is being shipped. They ship, lets say, one truck load (30 55 gal cans) of ammonium nitrate originating from Pakistani fertilizer plants. The distributors keep 10 for them selfs and fill 10 with sand that go back on the truck to complete the 30. The 10 55 gal cans are then un-trackable. then every one gets paid. Could work that way.

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 Chris Ohio

REG: "I video taped a lot of my convoys in Iraq."...if my cell phone is sitting on my desk, about 1-2 seconds before my phone rings, the speakers on my desk will begin to buzz. Most likely some sort of electronic interference. I would like to think those in the military community are aware of this Phenomena, the problem is, the vehicle is probably already on top of the IED when an insurgent hit their button, OR, the vehicle is moving at a rate of speed which would prevent the driver from stopping before rolling over top of the device. If the signal is electronic - they could possibly jam the signal somehow; however, if it was physically connected -- it would be pretty hard to stop the transmission

Wed, Nov 16, 2011

You could go after the source of the surplus military grade weapons, used for IED's but that may mean stepping on a few of our "allies" toes. Wouldn't want to rock the boat of the world arms trade now would we?

Wed, Nov 16, 2011

So let's take 80% of JIEDDO funds and give them to the intelligence community to find the sources. They don't seem to be interested in seriously considering ideas outside their tight circle of friends. The robots were largely developed from money from other agencies, so how much was spent for the meager achievements of JIEDDO? We could have probably built blast proof roads across Afghanistan for that amount.

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