For nearly a year now, the Bush administration has been screaming to anyone
who still bothers to listen to them that these pesky Improvised Explosive
Devices would not be nearly so deadly or as prevalent if it were not for evil
providing Iraqi resistance fighters the technology and materials to construct
the current generation of such devices our boys are getting hit by. Oh sure, the
Iraqis would still be hitting us with roadside bombs, these squawkers say, but
they try to give the impression that the devices would be several levels less in
sophistication and lethality today, but for them damned Iranians. To hear Bush's
propoganda spin-meisters put it, if it weren't for Ahmadinejad, the Iraqis would
be reduced to throwing nothing but mere Molotov Cocktails.
But is this true? Well, it is safe to say the Bush Administration has a
credibility problem. And it has been expected for some time that Bush would like
to find an excuse to engage Iran
militarily. Perhaps even stooping low enough to fabricate such an excuse.
They've done it before, after all. Key to determining if these allegations are
true, as in any challenge of wrong-doing, is Habeus Corpus. No, not a court
challenge, necessarily, but "produce the body";...show us the evidence. This is
the Brave New World Order of the GWOT (global war on terror), however, and
Bush's Ober-Leutnants aren't big on evidence, as we have seen time and time
Still, it is indeed true Iran
is looking forward to the day when the rest of the world retreats from Iraq
so they can absorb it into themselves. Iran
DOES indeed have motivation to assist the Iraqi resistance. It certainly COULD
be true. Then there is the question of "so what?" Even if it IS true,...does it
To guide us in answering these questions for ourselves, we need to know
more detail about the specific advantages the Bush camp is claiming Iran
has provided. Until recently, the allegation was that the IEDs planted by Iraqis
in the last 2 years have increasingly in ratio consisted of devices using Explosively Formed Penetrators, or EFPs.
EFPs are not a new technology. They have been around since at least WWII,
and are derived from experimentation with the more commonly known Shaped Charge
used in most anti-tank warheads.
To understand how the EFP works, let us first examine the Shaped Charge. An
armor-penetrating shaped charge is a cylinder that at one end has an inverted
metalic cone (usually copper) which said cylinder is filled with explosive.
A detonation is initiated from the end opposite of the inverted copper
cone. As the detonation wave reaches the tip of the cone, the copper is thrust
forward with the blast front. As the blast wave progresses forward, the rest of
the cone follows suit. However, the angle of the cone also directs the
progressing detonation wave towards the middle of the empty space of the cone's
cavity, producing a liquified molten jet of copper that is travelling at
The molten stream of high velocity metal bores a hole through several
inches of armor, creating horrible destruction to anyone inside.
Explosive charges such as these are what make up the warhead of nearly any
Rocket-Propelled Grenade (RPG) or similar
projectile meant to defeat armor. Because the projectile is intended to detonate
upon impact, the design of these devices is such that the gas jet of molten
copper is focussed just a few inches in front of the charge itself. This is
called the "stand-off", or the distance required from the explosive charge to
the target to allow the jet to form together to a pinpoint so that it has the
intesified energy to do what it does. The projectile's nosecone is usually the
means by which the stand-off is maintained for uniform and effective
performance. But it is the deep (or shallow) angle of the inverted copper cone
(which becomes the molten stream) that determines how close or far away the
stream comes together to form the deadly armor-perforating stuff that punches
inside and creates an instantanious crematorium.
However, in experimentations at Frankford Arsenal between WWII and Vietnam, U.S.
Army Ordnance Corp technicians played around with shaped charges
that had varied and different degrees of angle to their inverted copper cones.
In some of these experiements the copper liners were not even cones, but were
just plain flat, while others had barely a perceptible depression to them at
all, and all manner of cupped or dish-shapes.
It was discovered that while steeply (or deeply) inverted cone-shaped
copper liners produced a streaming jet of molten copper immediately in front of
the charge, cones that had a very shallow angle to them, resembling more of a
platter than a cone, tended to throw the center of the copper platter forward
just ahead of the main body. The rest of the platter's radius would then begin
to fold back on itself, forming into a projectile that looked similar to a
badminton shuttlecock or cone-like dart. This allowed for the creation of an
aimable anti-tank mine that could be concealed off to the side of a roadway.
This development was of interest to the military because armor on tanks is
always thickest up front, but thinner on the sides, top and back.
The U.S. has encountered Directional Mines before. They were not uncommon
in Vietnam. The VC used to
scrounge unexploded U.S. artillery shells and use the reclaimed explosives as
the filler for their own "platter charges". They were able to craft these crude
devices in jungle workshops that sometimes consisted of nothing more than
workers using hammers and anvils to pound out concave ends that would be fitted
to pieces of 55 gallon oil drums that had been sectioned into pieces 6 inches
deep. With their massive size, they made up for in sheer blast energy what they
lacked in quality construction or skilled aiming. Among other uses, these would
be emplaced and camoflaged on the banks of waterways for use in ambushing U.S.
Navy patrol boats. The waterways were an important supply network
for the VC, and the Navy boats were a real niusance to them. More than a few
PBRs were sunk by these.
Where did the VC learn to make these things? From the U.S. Special Forces
themselves, actually. Remember the Frankford Arsenal guys? Well, in the early
60's, as JFK expanded the size and role of U.S. SF units, the Army got more
supportive of them as well. As originally conceived, the role of Special Forces
in the event the Cold War went hot, was to be active behind enemy lines with
bands of partizans and resistance fighters. Toward that end, SF troopers were to
not only be soldiers, but teachers of skills to those they would be supporting
and interacting with. The guys at Frankford Arsenal put together a sort of
fieldguide text book of all the assorted nasties they had been fooling around
with, which was meant to be not only studied by SF soldiers, but taken with them
into theatres of operations to share with their allied partizans, making use of
illustrations to help defeat language barriers.
When our Special Forces guys first started going deep into the Vietnamese
countryside and training rural country boys to be partners in defeating the
communists, they used these texts, and copies eventually got into the hands of
the enemy. Thanks, G.I.!!!! Since 1975, these Frankford Arsenal texts have been
available via mail order in the U.S. in magazines such as Soldier Of Fortune and
others. And of course, today, nearly all manner of weaponry ever devised is
available on the internet, if you know where to look. (Where do you think I
found these pictures?)
In fact, this information and technology was so commonly available by the
90's, it was used by Germany's Red Army Faction (also known as the
Baader-Meinhoff Gang) to assasinate the chief of Deutsche Bank, Alfred
Herrhausen, in 1989. He was being chauffeured to work in his armoured
Mercedes-Benz, with bodyguards in both a lead vehicle and another following
behind. The bomb had been hidden in a school bag on a bicycle next to the road
that the terrorists knew Herrhausen would be traveling in his three-car convoy.
In the bag was a 20-kg bomb that was detonated when Herrhausen's car interrupted
a beam of light as it passed the bicycle. The bomb and its triggering mechanism
were quite sophisticated. The bomb targeted the most vulnerable area of
Herrhausen's car—the door where he was sitting—and required split-second timing
to overcome the car's special armour plating. It is unlikely that this IED had
the precise engineering required to form the liner into a more effective slug or
"carrot" shape, but in any case, the detonation resulted in a mass of copper
being projected toward the car at a speed of nearly two kilometers per second,
effectively penetrating the armoured Mercedes. (To be fair, however, it must be
said that some believe it was the fact that Herrhausen sat on the World Bank and
wanted to make significant changes, and that these people believe the
assasination was a "false flag" op, performed by the CIA. Who knows?)
So the basic science and know-how to make directional (aimable) IEDs that
can destroy vehicles from concealed positions completely off the roadway has
been generally available to the entire world for some time. Is it really any
surprise then that this old technology has reared it's head in Iraq? Quite
expected, actually, I would say. Pictured below is one of the captured
directional mines using EFPs that the coalition commanders are claiming comes
A disarmed captured specimen was taken to Britain's explosive ordnance tech
guys and disected and anylized. It was declared that the device exhibited a such
a level of craftsmanship and sophistication that it had to have been fabricated
by use of a lathe and trained ordnance engineers with experience in munitions
manufacture. But while that is perhaps true, higher level commanders then made
the LEAP OF LOGIC that this was evidence of Iranian assistance. Really?
I have a metal lathe in my garage. I imagine there are a few hundred
machine shops throughout Iraq, and many privately owned metal lathes sprinkled
throughout the country as well. A good friend of mine is a former Army Captain
who commanded for a time at a U.S. Army Ordnance Depot. After leaving the army,
he went to school on the G.I. bill to become an aerospace machinist. Knowing
what he does about these 2 careers in his life, I am confident that if Arizona
were ever invaded by an occupying force, my friend and I could turn out some
effective nasties in my garage "VC gun factory". It isn't too hard to imagine
that there are former Iraqi army personel with skills like my friend. It isn't a
stretch at all to imagine how these refined devices could be made entirely "in
house". After all, after 4 years of war, all the stupid fighters are dead, and
only the smart one remain. 4 years is long enough to conduct live fire R&D
to see what works and what doesn't. Just because the Iraqi resistance is
exhibiting an ability to evolve and enhance themselves is not, by itself,
evidence of assistance by Iran. At least in this regard, assitance by Iran is
nearly impossible to prove. Rather importantly, the Bush administration KNOWS
And what if a raid conducted on a weapons factory in Bagdad did in fact
result in capturing an Iranian ordnance engineer? Whould THAT prove anything.
Hardly! The war has inspired Al-Quaida types from all over the muslim world to
go to Iraq and assist their bretheren, out of their own personal motivation.
Such a prisoner would have to be wearing his Iranian military uniform and have
signed orders in his pocket before you could convincingly allege he was sent by
the government of Iran. That is why I, and others like myself who understand how
unsophisticated the manufacture of explosive ordnance devices really are, are
extremely skeptical of any Bush camp claims of Iranian involvement. It certainly
COULD be true. But it simply cannot be proved.
I hope this has educated you a little as to what these devices are all
about and how they work. For further study and review I have included a few
links that provide interesting places to start.