What Is an
Improvised Explosive Device (IED)?
By Dan S Defense
An Improvised Explosive Device (IED) is a Roadside Bomb
Which is Often Used Successfully Against Our Troops
IED stands for Improvised Explosive Device. I knew them
as "Roadside bombs" when I served in the IDF. Then as
now, IEDs are cowardly yet effective terrorist tools.
You often hear or read about IED in the news in the
context of an attack against our troops in Iraq or
Afghanistan. Unfortunately, these attacks are often
successful and inflict damage to men and equipment.
People often don't understand what an IED is and why
they are so effective. IEDs are typically low tech
explosive bundles. They contain an explosive charge and,
at times, they are enhanced with nails or shotgun type
pellets, or just pieces of steel.
An IED is typically quite small (for
bombs) and only weigh a few tens of kilos (a
construction cement bag is 50kg which is about 110lb) ,
which makes them easy to transport and hide. Their small
size is one of their main advantages. They cause damage
by sending projectiles and unbelievable velocities,
which can penetrate light armor, and a shock-wave that
causes internal and head injuries. I have seem the
damage they cause first hand and it's very bad.
IED are made in make shift bomb labs, typically in some
out of the way village, or someone's basement. The bomb
maker, the most important element in making an IED is
typically a somewhat educated fanatic, who's dedication
for the cause outweighs any moral inclination that may
linger in his mind. It is important to note that these
bomb makers, the mind that enables the "creation" of
these Improvised Explosive Device, are also the same
people who make vests for suicide bombers.
most important ingredient is the bomb itself and its
detonator. Keep these two facts in mind since we'll
refer to them later when we offer a way to combat these
sinister devices. As you can see the IEDs and the people
who make them are both quite nasty. In this article
we'll cover three topics: What is an IED, why are IEDs
effective and, how we can combat this sinister weapon.
What Exactly is an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) and
Does it Work:
Without getting into technical details, an IED is a
relatively small, home made explosive devices, that uses
a combination of available explosives. The hearth of the
IED, the explosive center and its detonator, is
typically made from a TNT or plastic explosive.
Sometimes an old or stolen munition (think anything as
small as an 81mm mortar to 105mm tank and 155mm
The explosives and more importantly
the detonators, where remote control ones are the most
effective, are often smuggled from terror sponsoring
countries such as Iran. People mostly refer to IEDs as
low tech devices, not realizing that Iran supplies high
explosives (i.e. more powerful blase, higher velocity of
contains projectiles and more powerful shock-wave) and
Iran supplies sophisticated detonators, which are both
high tech and deadly. Yes, they also supply training to
many of these nasties.
Regardless of the type of internals, the explosive is
placed in a bag or backpack or some such portable
container. For good measure an anti-personal material
such as nails or metal pellets are added. When the
explosive is detonated, tremendous pressure releases in
a short instance of time. The explosive pressure and
accompanied shock wave, fly out at unbelievable speed
that allows them to penetrate body armor, and lightly
armored vehicles. Their effectiveness is derived from
their stealth and devastating velocity of the objects
How to Combat IEDs:
There are three main ways of dealing with hidden IEDs;
The first method is high tech and works on remote
controlled IED. A low flying aircraft, fitted with
special electronic transmitters and antennas, flies at
low altitude and low speed, transmitting signals all
across the spectrum. the idea is to detonate some IEDs
by "faking" the activation signal. This works quite well
but does not affect very high end devices (e.g. new
detonates and remote control weapons from Iran) or the
very low tech IEDs that use timers, trip wires and other
The second method employs ground troops. Highly trained
sniper teams keep watch of areas that have high IED
activity. Since IEDs typically target patrols, keeping
watch of areas that get troop traffic but offer terrain
suitable for hiding roadside bombs, yields the bomb
planting terrorists. A good sniper team, armed with .50
caliber sniper rifles, such as the ones supplied by
Barrett, with good optics can nail terrorist from as far
as a mile away. This "instant death" for IED planters,
does not offer a deterrent against an enemy that hopes
to die and go to heaven, but it prevents IEDs from
hurting out troops.
There's poetic Justice in this approach and it is
employed successfully in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another
method, which is often used by the IDF is going out to
where the enemy operates, setting a night ambush at last
light and then waiting for the baddies to come and plant
their bombs. It makes for many long nights, but one
successful mission makes it all worth while. The end
result of both approaches is the same. Less IEDs and
The third method is the most complicated. It is also the
most effective since it target the "brain" behind the
IED. Any fanatical fool can go and plant a bomb. He is
shown where to place it and he's expandable. There are
many replacements. Too many to target. But the ones who
plan the missions and the ones who build the bombs are
less common. They are the ones that are most responsible
for IED attacks and are therefore the best targets.
hard to find and get then because they hide among
civilians and work out of basements and improvised labs,
but sometimes good intelligence can locate them and then
an accurately placed bomb from a jet or Predator drone
can do the trick. Sometime it's a small team that takes
care of business in a very high risk mission. In my
mind, this is the most efficient way to fight IEDs.
I hope this gives you a peek into the dark side of a
soldiers life in the field. I can tell you first hand
that IEDs are terrible weapons and that the cowards that
sponsor, build and deploy them are the lowest form of
scum you can ever imagine. It pains me to read about an
IED that successfully manages to destroy the life of
brave men and woman. It's not just the projectiles that
destroy limbs, but also the shock-wave that can cause
internal and head injuries. Then there are other scares
that are taken from losing friends in action.
Next time you hear about an IED, you'll know exactly
what it is and who put it there--not by name but by
nature. And every day that you don't hear about an IED,
you'll know that good, brave men took action to prevent
their brother's in arm from being hit by evil doers.
Until next time, stay safe by staying alert!
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© Rational Self Defense, 2010