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.
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
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).
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.
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.