Weapons: November 19, 2004

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Anti-government forces in Iraq have increasingly used roadside bombs (IEDs, Improvised Explosive Devices) as their primary weapon. In the last month or so, there have been over 200 IED attacks a week in Iraq. The IED is a simple weapon, often just some old artillery shells hidden by the road side and detonated by a variety of wireless, or wired, methods. Cell phones, wireless toys, garage door openers and so on are used, and increasingly defeated with American electronic equipment that triggers the bombs prematurely, or prevents the wireless trigger from operating. American forces have developed new tactics and equipment to protect troops from IEDs. The most common, and expensive, equipment is the armored truck. There are 5,200 armored hummers in Iraq, and another 3,000 on the way. The army has purchased 13,800 add-on armor kits for all manner of trucks, and 8,900 of these have already been installed. 

New tactics include frequent sweeps of roads looking for IEDs, the use of sniper teams to stake out areas where a lot of IEDs are planted. Killing those who plant the IED (who are usually paid a few hundred dollars for the job), discourages others, and causes the price paid to go up. UAVs patrol roads at night, looking for people planting IEDs, and calling in ground troops, or an air attack, also cuts down on the number of IEDs set up. 

But with thousands of kilometers of roads in use by American troops, much of it going through inhabited areas (where the exploding IEDs also cause lots of civilian casualties), its hard to avoid IEDs without giving up the use of ground mobility. American forces refuse to stay off the roads, so the battle of the roadside bombs continues.

 


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