In the last two months, Iraqi and
American forces have largely destroyed the Iran backed Mahdi army in Basra and
eastern Baghdad. In the process, a lot of Iranian weapons and incriminating
weapons have been captured. It's pretty clear that the Iranians are supplying
pro-Iranian Iraqi Shia militias with cash, weapons and technical advisors.
Particularly worrisome are the Iranian explosively formed penetrator (EFP)
weapons. While Iran stridently denies sending these to Iraq, they have long
advocated the use of this specialized weapon. Iranian supported Hizbollah, in
Lebanon, has long used EFP against Israeli troops.
Sunni Arab terrorists were defeated last year, and attention turned to the Shia
militias (like the Mahdi Army), the number of American casualties from EFPs
increased. 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. This year, that percentage has increased, but not that much, because
of the increased use of more heavily armored vehicles (like MRAPs).
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
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.
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, while EFP attacks are up over a third this year, casualties
from those weapons is down 17 percent.
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.
the battle against the Mahdi Army, Iraqi troops are getting killed. This led to
a delegation of Iraqi politicians going to Iran to plead for a halt 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.