Weapons: Iraqi Troops Seize EFP Factory


October 31,2008:  The Iraqi Army recently found and seized a terrorist workshop, in eastern Baghdad, that was producing explosively formed penetrator (EFP) weapons. The workshop contained metal working equipment for producing EFPs, as well as 34 completed weapons, and components for more than fifty additional weapons. Some of the captured material came from Iran.

While Iran stridently denies sending EFPs, or EFP components,  to Iraq, they have long advocated the use of this specialized weapon. Iranian supported Hezbollah, in Lebanon, has long used EFP against Israeli troops. In eastern Baghdad, Shia terrorist groups have gone underground, but the Iraqi Army and police is largely Shia, and many Shia are hostile to any kind of terrorism, Shia or Sunni.  Last year, about five percent of the Coalition combat deaths in Iraq, and about eleven percent of those killed by roadside bombs, were because of EFPs. 

The EFP is nasty because it can penetrate the armor on just about anything but an M-1 tank. An EFP is a precision weapon, not an ad-hoc assemblage of explosives (like most roadside bombs). Your typical EFP is a cylindrical device, the optimal one often described as similar to a coffee can. But the cylinder metal must be thicker. You fill about 60 percent of the "coffee can" with explosives (C4, also known as plastique will do). Then you insert a detonator on the closed end of the "coffee can" and a concave copper plug that is pushed into the plastic explosive. The tricky part here is that the depth of the concave copper part, and the thickness of the copper, have to be just right. It requires someone expert at math and the chemistry of explosives to make those calculations. You can make a mould for casting the copper plug, but you must make sure you get the thickness just right. The more precisely the copper plug is made, and the EFP assembled, the more armor the device will penetrate, and the more damage it will do inside the target vehicle.

You set EFPs off with the detonator, either via wire, or wireless, connection. When the C4 explodes, it forms the copper cap into a blob of molten copper, moving faster than a speeding bullet (about 1,500 meters a second). The blob stays intact, and lethal, for a few hundred meters, traveling pretty much in a straight line. However, the EFP is still difficult to aim. The user has to place it so that, when it goes off, it will hit a vehicle sitting in a position the user has already figured out. For this reason, EFPs are usually set up at places where vehicles have to stop.

When the EFP hits an armored vehicle, it burns and punches its way through the armor. Once inside the vehicle, it injures or kills whoever it hits, as well as igniting combustible material and generally scaring the hell out of everyone. The increased use of MRAP vehicles however, has meant that, when EFP went up, casualties from those weapons declined (but did not disappear).

EFPs weigh under ten pounds, are small and easily carried and concealed. They are quick to set up. Some appear to have been made in Iraqi workshops, in Shia parts of the country. These are crude, and much less effective. But most others appear to come from Iran, made in government factories that have long specialized in EFP manufacture. . Naturally, these "Iranian EFPs" don't have any distinguishing marks on them (indicating a state arms factory, or a "Made in Iran" label). The Iranians are not stupid, they don't want to admit supplying these weapons. But all indications are that, most EFPs are made in Iran. And their main purpose is to kill American and British troops, and cause more chaos in Iraq.

Last year, when Iraqi troops were also attacked with EFPs, a delegation of Iraqi politicians went to Iran to plead for a halt in the flow of EFPs. The Iranians again denied everything, which led to more Iraqis seeing Iran as an enemy, not a fellow Shia state they could depend on.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close