Iran has been
shipping many more Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs) into Iraq this year.
In January, about thirty of them were used to attack U.S. troops. That rose to
65 by April, and 99 in July. The EFP, more commonly known as "shaped charges,"
have been around since World War II, when they were famously used in the
bazooka and Panzerfaust (the model for the later RPG) portable anti-tank
weapons. The EFP 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
Although EFPs 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. Reportedly EFPs cause about three
times as many casualties per explosion as ordinary IEDs. A third of American
combat deaths in July 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 EFP has to hit something pretty much
directly in order to have an effect. There is also a range problem, as EFP
explosives have a very short effective range (a few feet at most.) Moreover, since
EFPs are intended for use against armor, they have limited effectiveness
against softer targets.
Iran has been smuggling many
more EFPs into Iraq this year, and pro-Iranian terrorists use them in Shia
neighborhoods of Baghdad. 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 (usually Shia Arabs) being injured. More of these EFPs are being captured as they
are being smuggled into Iraq. Examination of those, with the ones used in
attacks, confirms that they come from the same source: a factory in Iran.