Counter-Terrorism: Bagging Terrorist Bombs


August 29, 2015: One of the major terrorist threats is small bombs hidden in luggage that is carried in the cargo hold of airliners. Such bombs have brought down several aircraft and to deal with the problem an expensive and time consuming screening procedure is used to detect the bombs before they get aboard. This screening process is not perfect. Now there is a simpler and cheaper solution to this problem, especially for the smaller (but still dangerous) and more difficult to detect bombs.

The solution is a special “FlyBag” explosion absorbing cloth. FlyBag is used in the form of several types of bags, some of them large enough to hold the large cargo containers used in airliners. Tests have shown that the four layers of FlyBag material safely contain the blast and heat of a bomb. It is the fast moving shock wave of the blast that causes catastrophic damage to aircraft fuselages. The blast can also start fires and send damaging fragments in all directions. One of the four layers of the FlyBag material is fireproof and another is Kevlar (used in bulletproof vests).

Various size bombs were detonated inside FlyBags used to protect various typical containers found in aircraft. Some of these tests were carried out in retired airliners on the ground. Engineers examined the aircraft structures after the explosions and found that the FlyBag did indeed contain the shock wave, blast heat and fragments (from cargo and luggage) sufficiently to keep the aircraft intact. Passengers and crew would have felt it, but the aircraft would still be able to land in one piece.

FlyBag is a further development of earlier blast absorbing technology. For example, after 2010 American MRAPS and Stryker wheeled armored vehicles had blast absorption (Skydex) panels added to their floors. Each 762x281x25mm panel (30x15x1 inches) weighs about one kilogram (2.3 pounds). The Skydex is actually a multilayer shock absorber that limits most of the blast shock from a bomb. Thus there are fewer casualties inside the vehicle, and troops are more quickly able to respond to the attack. The panels result in fewer casualties overall, and fewer severe injuries. The success of Skydex led to further research in the area of dealing with the many types of damage explosives inflict.



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