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Improvised Explosive Device Explained
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.

The second 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 artillery munition).

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 they spread.

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 such methods.

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 less "planters".

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.

It's 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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