Security Engineering/Kemper/3Standoff is not always available. For example, you need to get close to search a vehiclefor an IED. Therefore, in cases where standoff is not feasible for a task, the task should beremoved from other activities and a blast wall should be designed to absorb the blast andshrapnel. Other times risk simply must be accepted, but it should be understood by thecommander and local personnel so contingencies for the risk are developed.
When sand isn’t sand
Sandbags are a common feature in Iraq. However, they are rarely filled with sand. Thesilty soils common near most bases have anywhere between 1/3 and 1/5 the ballistic stoppingpower of sand depending on the specific soil type, moisture, and projectile. For example, anAK-47 has a muzzle velocity of 2330 feet/second. Allowing for some standoff and assuming animpact velocity of 2250 feet/second, it takes a full foot of silty soil to stop the round while only0.25 feet, or 3 inches, of sand to have the same effect. The need to account for soil properties istrue of any earthworks, including overhead cover, metal bins or HESCO concertainers.Concrete is another common force protection material in Iraq. It is used in T-walls,vehicle barriers, bunkers, guard towers, and other structures. Typical strength in the US, Europe,and even Kuwait and Qatar is 4500 psi or greater after 28 days curing. Pre-Saddam Iraqistructures also typically have comparable strengths. However, post-war issues with aggregates,water, admixtures, and cement as well as weather effects often result in a fraction of strength.This is particularly true if there are no military units or third party contractors testing concretebatches using compresive strength machines and test cylinders. Based on material tests and fieldtests, concrete strength is usually less than 2500 psi and can be as low as 500 psi.Concrete strength is critical in force protection measures. Assume a single 155mmartillery round, which is often used in IEDs and VBIEDs, at a distance of 10 feet. The 4500 psiconcrete must be five inches thick to prevent perforation and six inches thick to prevent spalling.At 1500 psi, the wall must be 9.5 inches thick to prevent perforation and 10.75 inches thick toprevent spalling. At 500 psi, which is very poor concrete with visible aggregate and rebar, itwould require over 19 inches to prevent perforation and over 22.5 inches to prevent spalling.Large fragments perforating a 12 inch wall of this concrete would exit the other side traveling at1890 feet per second, or 1290 mph.Bricks, lumber, and steel also have quality issues affecting force protection. Somebatches of bricks turn to crumbs if dropped from shoulder level and would not stand up to even amild blast. Local construction often only put mortar in horizontal joints and not between thesides of the bricks, weakening a structure against impact. Since the walls are often covered in asmooth layer of mortar, this is not always apparent. If the lumber is rough cut and not marked, itcan have as little as a third of the strength of treated structural grade lumber. This affectsSEAHuts and wood-reinforced bunkers and roofs. This is particularly important using USACEreferences and software since they use results based on testing these structures using structuralgrade materials. Steel also has its challenges, with local welding typically having 70% to 25% of the reliability of the unwelded section which could cause failure if subjected to blast loading.Army Engineer Technicians (MOS 21T) are trained to evaluate construction materials.They can develop quality control measures to test concrete and can work with local plants toimprove their strength. They can also perform field tests to estimate in-place concrete strengthand other materials.As a rule of thumb for untested post-invasion concrete in Iraq, a 1500 psi strength can beconservatively assumed if there are no visible defects. This can be checked by rapping the