- The Washington Times - Monday, November 10, 2003

The Pentagon has rushed new technologies to ground troops in Iraq to help foil persistent attacks by guerrillas using homemade bombs.

The bombs, officially known as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), have killed dozens of American soldiers since the insurgency began shortly after the fall of Baghdad on April 9.

Saddam Hussein loyalists make the relatively simple explosives in guerrilla hide-outs, then place them on or near roads traveled by U.S. convoys. When the vehicles pass, Iraqis detonate the bombs from a remote location via radio signal.

Defense officials said the Pentagon began a rush program with the “highest priority” to develop technologies that can find and detonate the IEDs from a safe distance. One senior official said the technologies were introduced into Iraq in the last couple of weeks, with more to come.

“This was not a long-developed, mature program,” the official said. “This was the top priority of the department. They pushed the technologies into the battlefield. They were not necessarily ready to go. They are still developing technologies.”

The sources said the programs, which are being overseen by the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, involve systems that can jam a radio signal or send out signals that explode the devices.

In the case of jamming, soldiers could block radio signals as the convoy traveled from point A to point B. In the case of premature explosions, troops could send pulse bursts of radio waves along roads to detonate any hidden bombs.

“There are a number of different technology applications that are being sent over there,” one defense official said.

Israel, which has been fighting an insurgency far longer than the United States, is known to have technologies that, under the right conditions, can blow up explosives on the bearer before he reaches a target.

Army Gen. Raymond Odierno commands the 4th Infantry Division, whose troops patrol some of the most dangerous streets in Iraq: the Sunni Triangle north of Baghdad, around the Saddam stronghold of Tikrit.

He told reporters two weeks ago it is not more soldiers he needs, but a way to thwart IEDs.

“I wish I could have — and we’re working, I know everybody’s working this — but I’d like a technology that allows me to jam and prematurely explode these improvised explosive devices that we have being used against us, where we can use those on a daily basis,” Gen. Odierno said. “I would be able to clear those up, and that would reduce that threat significantly.

“We are working on that, and I know there’s several people that are, but if you ask me for one technology, that’s the technology that I wish we would have, because it would help us to really protect the populace, as well as our own soldiers.”

One 4th Infantry raid last week illustrated what soldiers are up against. A search Nov. 4 of a house near the town of al Hadid found 33 blocks of explosives, 98 feet of detonation cord, 20 blasting caps and “abundant volatile munitions used in improvised explosive devices,” the military said.

One problem in finding IEDs is not only that they are hidden, but that Iraqi roads are strewn with debris, giving bombs camouflage. The cluttered landscape makes it difficult to pick out any abnormality, such as an IED hidden under a concrete block.

Saddam loyalists and foreign guerrillas have primarily used IEDs and rocket-propelled grenades to kill Americans. The guerrillas appear to be shifting to hand-held missiles to down aircraft. A Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopter have been shot from the sky during the past week, killing 22 soldiers. More than 30 Americans have died in Iraq in the first week of November.

During the past two months, guerrillas have averaged eight attacks a day on U.S. forces, according to the military command in Baghdad.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said recently he knows there is some central financing of the guerrilla attacks because captured fighters have been found with money, and the homemade IEDs are beginning to look alike.

“A number of the explosive devices appear to be using if not the same, at least very similar, explosives,” he said.

A senior military officer said just because there was no off-the-shelf technology to immediately send to Iraq does not mean there was no ongoing research. “Priorities were different 10 years ago. Antisubmarine warfare had a higher priority than IEDs,” the officer said. “But we were not sitting on our hands.”


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