Weapons: Iranian EFPs Disappear


: August 8, 2008: Iran has been shipping far fewer Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs) into Iraq this year compared to last, and there are fewer Iraqis willing to use them. This time last year, about a hundred a month were being used to attack U.S. troops. That's down over 80 percent this Summer. The EFPs are much more dangerous than the usual explosive roadside bomb, causing about five times as many casualties per attack. Roadside bomb use in Iraq is down about 60 percent from last year, but that's still over 400 a week. Most of them are found before they can explode, but that's still a lot of people planting bombs. Most of the victims these days are Iraqi troops and police.

The EFP, more commonly known as "shaped charges," have been around since World War II, when they were famously used in the U.S. bazooka and German Panzerfaust (the model for the later RPG) portable anti-tank weapons. The EEP is an improved design over the basic shaped charge developed during World War II. Although most of the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used in attacks against government and Coalition forces in Iraq have used conventional explosives (demolition charges, artillery shells, mines, etc.), a very small number have been fabricated using EFPs.

Although shaped charges are used in RPGs and similar missile weapons, they are not well suited for use in IEDs. This is fortunate, as they are much more dangerous. A third of American combat deaths in the Summer of 2007 were caused by EFPs, and most of them are used by pro-Iranian Shia militias in Baghdad.

The problem with using EFPs as IEDs is that they have to be aimed. Most IEDs are designed to be detonated by trip-wire or similar mechanism or by remote command. Even a remotely detonated IED can cause serious damage, since it's the explosion is going to affect an area of some size. In contrast, an EEP has to hit something pretty much directly in order to have an effect. There is also a range problem, as EEP explosives have a very short effective ranget. Moreover, since EFPs are intended for use against armor, they have limited effectiveness against softer targets.

Iran was smuggling many more EEPs into Iraq last year, and pro-Iranian terrorists used them in Shia neighborhoods of Baghdad. But those areas are now under government control, and many of the Shia militia leaders have fled to Iran.

The EFP is most easily used in urban areas, where U.S. vehicles can be easily stopped, and where there is much less possibility of nearby civilians being injured. Now most of the EFPs are being captured as they are smuggled into Iraq. Examination of those, and the ones used in attacks, confirms that they come from the same source: a factory in Iran.

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