quickly and easily destroy these horrific devices used by the insurgents against a high-tech opponent. Much money and time was given to research groups and companies of alltypes to quickly provide our troops with protection from IEDs. Eight years in Iraq andten in Afghanistan have shown they have not found it. Part of that is because the IED isso adaptable, and another part is that military leaders were seeking solutions from onlythe high-tech sector.The Improvised Explosive Device (IED), often dubbed “
The Signature Weapon of the9/11 Era
is lethal, easily concealed and simple to construct. Its greatest asset, whichwill ensure its presence on the battlefield, is its low cost.The U.S. military was not prepared for the IED. Instead, the U.S. Army was designed tofight a fast, high technology war, requiring large quantities of supplies brought to thefront via supply lines (that were later vulnerable to roadside bombers). Combat engineershad not been trained in dealing with IEDs either. Metal detectors were practically uselessas Iraqi drivers use ditches to dispose of their soft drink cans. Much like their predecessors in earlier wars, combat engineers were reduced to probing the soil withmetal rods. Nonetheless, by 2005 fully 70% of American casualties were caused byIEDs.
Research accelerated to include universities and corporations. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) awarded numerous U.S. universities grants ranging from$150,000 to $300,000 per year.
Many of the nation’s largest military contractors wereawarded $millions and high-tech companies quickly began development programs. Therewere many promises and expectations were high. For example, Ionatron of Tucson, AZ, promised to send their remote controlled vehicle, traveling at 35 mph to send a surge of electricity that would disable hidden explosives up to 1,000 yards away. Companyspokesman Mark Carallo said the device proved 90% effective in their field-tests to date.
More and more money and effort was put into finding a solution to the IED. Aseparate program designed to deal solely with IEDs, the Joint Improvised ExplosiveDevice Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), grew from small beginnings in 2003 to a 1,900member staff and a budget of nearly $21 billion at present.
Many large projects were robot and computer based. While they may have looked goodin the laboratory or on paper, these devices were beset with problems that made themonly marginally successful, if at all. Many other programs were delayed getting to thetroops in the field. All the while casualties continued to mount.
SWORDS, an armedrobot supposedly ready for combat in 2008 began by turning its guns on US troops.
TheArmy’s Future Combat System, highly dependent on sensors, was described by RandAnalyst John Gordon:
“So many of these future concepts are predicated on very, very high levels of situational awareness, butthere’s precious little evidence we’re going to get there from here, particularly in a cluttered groundenvironment.”
Many high-tech solutions have proven to be unsuccessful and at huge costs. In 2006, themilitary bought 3,800 radio jammers at a cost of $79,000 apiece from General Dynamics.
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