Monday, July 12, 2010

New Blast Seat Technology

By Bob Morrison

The scourge of asymmetric warfare is undoubtedly the improvised explosive device and although British Forces picked up a wealth of experience in dealing with this threat in Northern Ireland during the seventies and eighties it is fair to say that they took their eye off ball during the recent Iraq campaign and in the early days of the Afghanistan deployment as the IED quickly became the ’weapon of choice’ of the technologically mismatched insurgent. While the attacker in a low intensity conflict zone will not have much of the expensive technology and equipment available to Western armies, assembling low technology homemade bombs from either munitions left over from previous conflicts or even from commercially available substances which can be combined and crafted into the deadliest of weapons, will not be beyond him and can be a great force equaliser.

Iraq, a country awash with surplus munitions following the 2003 Coalition invasion and the subsequent toppling of Saddam Hussein’s autocratic regime, was the ideal breeding ground for IED design and it was not long before heavy armoured vehicles were falling prey to simple devices which produced explosively formed penetrators that could punch through their defences like a hot knife through butter. As Twenty-first century insurgency is effectively pan-global, it was therefore not long before the lessons learned in the Garden of Eden migrated to the Green Zone of Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province and casualty levels started rising as a result.

The bulk of explosion casualties and fatalities suffered in Helmand were originally caused by devices intended for foot patrols or occasional mine strikes from legacy munitions left over from the Soviet invasion of the eighties, but as the Taliban became more knowledgeable of British tactics and routines, they increasingly targeted transport and resupply vehicles. The recent Road Warriors television documentary series covering British Combat Logistic Patrols brought home just how omnipresent the IED threat is for routine vehicle movements and the recent revelation that the Grenadier Guards Battlegroup had encountered over one thousand IEDs in a five month period during Operation HERRICK 11 merely hammered home the point.

To combat the IED and landmine threat in Afghanistan the UK Ministry of Defence has started pumping large sums of money into the supply of heavily protected vehicles, such as Mastiff, Ridgback and Coyote, plus it has introduced better protected light vehicles such as Jackal and Jackal 2 as well as continuously up-armouring its Land Rover WMIK fleet as new materials and concepts are developed. However just adding more armour does not completely defeat the IED, as all the attacker needs to do is make the device bigger and better to compensate for new protective measures; indeed even sixty tonne main battle tanks are not impervious to the right IED.

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