the fifteen British captives landed happily on England's soil,
last Thursday, the shocking news filtered through the already,
high-spirited celebrating media, that four British soldiers
became the new victims of the deadly device known as Explosively
Formed Projectile (EFP), an offspring of the equally deadly
shaped charge IED, used already widely in Iraq and Lebanon.
Iranian intelligence operatives have been training Iraqi fighters
inside Iran on how to use and assemble deadly roadside bombs
known as EFPs, the U.S. military spokesman said Wednesday. Commanders
of a splinter group inside the Shiite Mahdi Army militia have
told The Associated
Press that there are as many as 4,000 members of their organization
that were trained in Iran and that they have stockpiles of EFPs,
a weapon that causes great uneasiness among U.S. forces here
because they penetrate heavily armored vehicles.
The most recent attack on the British troops happened at 0200
near Hayaniya, a slum area on the northwestern outskirts of
Basra a known stronghold of the Mahdi Army, a militia affiliated
to the notorious anti-western cleric Muqada al-Sadr. The lethal
detonation was also followed by an immediate attack with rocket-propelled
grenades and small arms fire, indicating a professional, well
orchestrated attack mode.
The terrorists have carefully monitored the British patrol activity
in and out of Basra city to the main British base at the Basra
airfield RAF station. The highway, which is widely perforated
from heavy armored traffic, has already become notorious to
carefully planted explosive devices, taking heavy toll from
passing troops. It seems, that the top killer named "routine
patrolling" has reared its ugly head once more in Iraq
and at probably the worst possible timing.
The latest incident, one of the most lethal in its case, totally
destroyed the 25 ton FV510 Warrior armored vehicle, killing
all of its occupants. One man escaped, however, with serious
life-threatening wounds. It is not known if he was inside or
dismounted when the blast occurred.
It may not be by sheer coincidence,
that Coalition forces recently intercepted a shipment
of infra-red triggered EFPs being transported into Iraq
across the Shatt al-Arab waterway from Iran. This may
well explain Captain Chris Air's frank explanation that
Royal Navy routine checks in the Shatt-al-Arab waterway
may indeed be crucial to save British and US soldier's
lives in Iraq.
According to British information, the FV510 Warrior (WR) is
designed to withstand an explosion from a 155mm
IED shell at 10m and direct fire from heavy machine guns
up to 14.5mm. Before Operation Iraqi Freedom (UK Telic) additional
armored protection was fitted to vehicles, but no official details
are available. Media reports from the scene show several pictures
taken at different spots. The one related to Thursday's attack
is the one showing a rather shallow crater in the middle of
the highway, in which the EFP seems to have been buried and
then exploded under the hull of the unfortunate Warrior vehicle,
which stood no chance of survival from the oversized IED blast.
Basra's police commander, Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Moussawi, having
examined the spot where Thursday's attack took place warned
that this type of explosives has sofar not been used in southern
Iraq. His description indicated a known Iranian design explosively
formed projectile (EFP). The general mentioned two similar devices
discovered Friday morning, one on the road leading to Basra
palace, in downtown city, where British military and civil administration
facilities are housed and a second on the road to the Airbase,
not far from Thursday's incident.
A conventional shaped
charge has a generally conical metal liner projecting a
hypervelocity jet of metal plasma capable of penetrating into
thick armor steel; however, as the jet breaks up into particles
drifting out of alignment, these greatly diminish the weapon's
effectiveness fired from longer range. In contrast, an (EFP)
has an outside liner in the shape of a shallow dish. On detonating
the explosive, the liner is transformed into a compact, aerodynamically
shaped body of metal, normally remaining intact and is therefore
able to penetrate armor at long range. This high energy projectile
easily punches through the outer protection of light- to medium-armored
vehicles, delivering a devastating spray of fragments from liner
material and vehicle armor backspall, spreading into the vehicle's
interior. The impact generally causes devastating effect on
crew members and equipment, with high probability of causing
secondary explosions from ammunition stores.
charges are generally cylindrical, fabricated from commonly
available water or oil pipe, with the forward end closed by
a concave copper or steel disk-shaped liner to create a shaped
charge. Explosive is loaded behind the metal liner to fill the
pipe. The average velocity is typically over 1,500 m/s depending
on the design and type of explosive used. Through its kinetic
energy on the order of 1 MJ, the projectile is capable of penetrating
more than 100 mm of armor plate.
A new type of more sophisticated IED consists of oversized
"shaped charge", located under the road surface to
explode under the hull of a passing armored vehicle.
Thursday's incident was certainly not the first, in which resulted
in such shocking results. Among the fist known, were two attacks
on IDF Merkava Mk3 tanks in Gaza early in 2002. The first of
two occurred on February 14 near Netzarim Junction in the Gaza
strip, on a tank, which lacked the protective base plates, specially
designed to enhance the vulnerable bottom of the tank, a criminal
offense, which cost the lives of the crew.
Bottom hull protection plates have been in use with the IDF
since the mid-80s to provide tanks with increased protection
against roadside bombs frequently used by Hizbullah guerillas
in South Lebanon and had already saved many a tanker's life
from similar attacks.
Investigation of the incident revealed that the bomb included
over 80kg of a powerful mix from Czech made C-4 CTP plastic
explosives and highly lethal detonating charges. It exploded
under the right side of the passing tank. The blast dented the
belly floor, forcing the lower hull shifting upward. As result,
the frontally located power pack was blown up towards the gun
barrel which flipped the 22 ton turret off its ring hinges.
Miraculously, the gunner, sitting in the lower hull under the
turret ring survived virtually unhurt, as the protected ammunition
containers did not detonate, nor was there a lethal fire from
exploding ammunition or ignited fuel, both located behind safe
bulkheads in the hull. Unfortunately, due to dangerous routine
adherence, another such incident happened in Gaza, until the
IDF woke up and resorted to more efficient measures, introducing
the well known Low Intensive Combat (LIC) doctrine, which solved
much of the problem. Unfortunately on 12 July 2006, while racing
into Lebanon in futile chase of the abducted soldiers, a Merkava
MK2, devoid of LIC protective kit, was blown up by a 150kg oversized
explosive device and totally destroyed, killing the entire crew.
Ignoring operational drill discipline was to blame once more
for needless loss if life.
In Iraq the worst insurgency attack, using oversized IED happened
on the morning of October 29, 2004 near Balad, in northern Iraq.
This incident involved a US 4th Mechanised Inf. Division M-1A2
SEP version, equipped with the most sophisticated armor protection.
It was also the first time that such a heavily armored vehicle
was disabled by such powerful (over 100kg of explosive) remote-controlled
improvised explosive device in Iraq. Through the force of the
tremendous blast, the 70- ton behemoth rolled over an embankment,
the turret fell off, two crew members were killed outright and
one seriously wounded. The US Army refused, at first, any information,
not to mention photos from the grizzly scene, however, individual
sources published photos, which indicated the amount of carnage
that such, rather simple devices, can cause to a huge steel
monster of its kind. The US Army is also bolstering the protection
of its M2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle, with the addition of belly
armor, protecting against belly charges IEDs.
In June 2005, General John R. Vines, then the senior U.S. commander
in Iraq, told news reporters that the Iraqi insurgents had probably
drawn on the new version of what was later known as explosively
formed projectile, bomb-making expertise from former Saddam
Hussein's army depots. But a Pentagon official involved in combating
the new IEDs told the New York Times that the first such bombs
examined by the U.S. military had required considerable expertise,
and that well-trained former government specialists were probably
involved in making them.
The use of infrared triggers was regarded as a tribute to the
insurgents' "resourcefulness" in using new deadlier
IED attack modes, according to the Pentagon source. While remotely
controlled IEDs require the use of electromagnetic device (such
a remote control radio, cellular phone etc) to command the explosion,
infrared triggers enable the autonomous employment of EFP roadside
IEDs (RSIED), as he explosion is triggered when an infra-red
beam is broken. Such IED projectiles are capable of penetrating
even the armor of 60-ton Abrams tanks. However, due to their
superior protection, main battle tanks usually survive such
attacks without serious damage. Unfortunately, armored personnel
carriers and light vehicles, such as the Warrior and Land Rovers,
used by British forces in southern Iraq, offer significantly
less protection and become easy prey for such RSIEDs.
The London based Sunday Telegraph was the first newspaper to
report the use of such infra-red triggered devices, used against
British troops, believed to be "imported" from Iran.
Since last May, according to UK MOD reports, several British
soldiers have been killed in Iraq, including 12 by roadside
bombs made up of EFPs and triggered by infra-red detonators.
It may not be by sheer coincidence, that Coalition forces recently
intercepted a shipment of infra-red triggered EFPs being transported
into Iraq across the Shatt al-Arab waterway from Iran. This
may well explain Captain Chris Air's frank explanation that
Royal Navy routine checks in the Shatt-al-Arab waterway may
indeed be crucial to save British and US soldier's lives in