Iran keeps getting blamed for
supplying explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) weapons to Iraqi
terrorists, mainly because Iran has long
advocated the use of this specialized weapon. Iranian supported Hizbollah, in
Lebanon, has long used EFP weapons against Israeli troops. So far, such weapons
have accounted for about five percent of the Coalition combat deaths in Iraq,
and about eleven percent of those killed by roadside bombs. 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.
You set the device 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 the EFP weapon
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 igniting combustible material and generally scaring
the hell out of everyone.
EFPs weigh under ten pounds, are small and easily
carried and concealed. They are quick to set up. With all that, only about 500
have been used. Some appear to have been made in Iraqi workshops, in Shia parts
of the country. But most others appear to come from Iran. 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.