DEFEATING THE IED THREAT
By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE
Jun 07. The end of the Cold War saw military planners looking at faster more manoeuvrable forces supported by close-support air power, rather than heavily armoured Brigades of Main Battle Tanks supporting mobile infantry with and air element. The First Gulf War started with the rapid deployment of troops by sea and air to Kuwait ending with the rush to the Iraq border. The end of the conflict was dominated with the famous Road of Death scenes of the destroyed Iraqi Army by helicopter gunships; thus war had become rapid, mobile and out of area. The Cold war relied on large garrisons of troops in country (mainly Germany) with forces being available from other European countries and the U.S. with longer lead times as the front line troops held for the required two weeks. The Gulf war extended missions to not only countries where permission to overfly and land troops had to be requested, it also stretched the logistic tail in all three service areas to worryingly long lead times for re-supply.
The 1982 Falklands campaign celebrating its 25 years anniversary this year also showed how long logistic tails proved a hazard to military planners. Not only were there a reputed ten 105mm shells left at the fall of Port Stanley the destruction of the Chinook helicopter fleet to one showed how reliant the military had become on the helicopter as a means of re-supply. Thus military planners addressed three key areas: the formation of Rapid Reaction Forces which could be deployed at a moments notice to trouble spots throughout the world; fast logistic re-supply in out-of-area conflicts to meet transport, food, water, fuel and ammunition requirements; the ability to communicate with troops on the move resulting in a huge investment in new communication systems such as WIN-T, Reacher, JTRS, Bowman and the use of commercial satcom and finally a re-think on the design and weight of the armoured vehicle fleet to allow rapid deployment by air in particular a strategy that also led to the parallel developments of new military transports which could deploy large vehicles directly into theatre, the C-17 in the USA and the A400M in Europe.
The U.S. Army were well in the forefront of developments and in the late nineties started the development process for Future Combat Systems, a new force of Brigade Combat Teams that were transported in lightweight armoured vehicles (17 tonnes) and relied on technology to defeat the enemy at a distance. Urban close quarter fighting was not envisaged in the planners minds. All this thinking was thrown into the melting pot with the deployment of the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) by Iraqi insurgents in the second Gulf War, Iraqi Freedom. Roadside bombs were first deployed against soft-skinned truck convoys resulting in a huge investment in armoured cabs and protection. This escalated into selective attacks using mobile phone technology to detonate IEDs against armoured vehicles deployed in urban areas; the toll of dead troops was devastating. The first move was to develop new IED technologies to defeat these threats in a new generation of systems to superseded the fielded Warlock Red and Green systems in the Us and systems from such firms as TRL in the UK developed for use in Northern Ireland, the second was to embark on a huge program of up-armouring the existing fleet and then to develop new mine protected MRAP vehicles. The announcement in April that a Challenger 2 hull had been penetrated underlined the problems facing military planners, how ever much protection you provide, the enemy will find a way to defeat it. One unintended consequence of defeating the IED threat was the need to jam the VHF band and thus create the need for more use of communications in the HF band.
In April this year, soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment formed part of a NATO counter-IED train-the-trainer course.
Soldiers at the Joint Multin