My column on how to defeat Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) drew some interesting ideas. Several address radio frequency interception to blow up the bombers before they reached their target. And several expressed frustration at our inability to better track and defeat roadside IEDs or suicide bombers as well as the lack of support we give our troops under such lethal circumstances.
Of the correspondence, I start with my favorite from Bob, the retired Ford engineer. "My idea is this. I am assuming that the IED sets off the explosive with some sort of a squib. I am assuming that the squib is attached to a battery which is switched on either remotely by an RF receiver or a mechanical switch on the suicide person. If this is true then the squib and the attached wires create a tuned circuit. The tuned circuit can be excited with an RF field creating enough energy to fire the squib. Research would be needed to find the amount of transmitter power needed and some sort of frequency modulator to get at the correct frequency as each unit will be slightly different. Maybe a spark gap transmitter would do the job. The idea is to detonate before the individual has reached his target."
This one from Rich says the same thing but more succinctly: A system that broadcasts a spectrum of RF ahead of vehicles would detonate the explosives before the vehicle arrives at the IED’s roadside location.
Richard says making random cell phones calls could flush out a few IEDS. It’s an interesting idea: I don’t know how many bombs are set off by a cell phone, but even a few could help. I suggest we make a phone exchange with say 10,000 senders, that could DIAL UP differing numbers with a sequence or randomness that could "let ring once and hang up". this should operate 24/7 then bingo! The bomb will go off in their garage, with them.
Jason in Virginia also says scan the airwaves: "One article I read regarding IED’s stated they often used walkie talkies or garage door openers to remotely detonate the IED. It seems possible to build relatively simple devices to scan the frequency ranges of the most commonly used remote detonators in order to detonate, and thus neutralize, an IED before military personnel entered the effective kill zone of the IED. "
Others such as Arnold from Minnesota thoughtfully suggest better surveillance: "It baffles me how the insurgents are able to locate the IED’s sufficiently closely to the military vehicles to cause harm. Either the routes followed by the vehicles are entirely predictable, in which case, surveillance of these routes should be a straightforward matter, and the people who plant the bombs could be apprehended.
Or, the routes are completely unpredictable, in which case, the IED’s must have been (or are being) planted everywhere. In this situation, random surveillance would almost always pick up the perpetrators.
A third possibility is that the planned routes are communicated to the insurgents by insiders in the know. It should be possible to identify these leaks by a few carefully "planted" pieces of information or disinformation.
One approach which might have merit is to insist that every person in Baghdad wear an RFID tag or equivalent, so that their positions and movement are known at all times. Failure to comply would be considered evidence of guilt.
Data mining and information management from such a system could be used to identify and track down the people responsible. Additionally, contacts between individuals and known suspects would emerge from the data analysis, and build up a "probability that a given individual is ‘complicit’."
Ray believes lighter but more sloped armor might help: "Robots, sensors, radar and all the other technologies are great before the device is activated. After it blows, none of those things are going to help. It seems to me that the heavy armor that is being used on the vehicles is not really helping either. This may already be in use but, I would think that lighter armor shaped to deflect the explosion would work better than installing large pieces of flat steel on the vehicles. The stealth fighters and bombers are invisible partly because of material and partly because of the sloped sides. The Merrimac had sloped sides and cannon balls could never get a direct 90 degree hit on her sides. The same principle should work for armored vehicles. Use lighter armor but slope the side to deflect the explosion."
Here’s some thoughts on a new `copter from another Richard: "I am appalled at the poor air support our soldiers have. I get sick when they are being killed so wastefully. We are fighting at their type battle at a two dimension level when we "own" the third dimension!! I suggest a new "light" copter with a high resolution telescopic camera, like the ones used at football or baseball games, and 50 caliber or 40 mm mounted to the camera, mounted essentially vertically downward, the copter would hover above a company of soldiers in harms way about 10,000 feet up. We need some 200 copters like this to augment the standard helicopter force. Our soldiers, TO MY DISMAY, are fighting at the enemy’s level when we own the high sky. 200 copters and 400 crews will fly night and day patrolling the streets. There should be one copter to each company going down the street at all times! Spend your 3 Billion on the new LIGHT helicopters."
Jonathan from Utah says get the Iraqis to surveil the roads. "How about using human power to spot IED’s? Hire 3 - 6 Iraqis per 1/8th mile of roadside. Have them surveil with the proper equipment, (and remuneration) in shifts. By continuously monitoring each section of road, they can report any suspicious behavior to the Army. How about "adopt a highway" plan for roads near communities? "
Larry from Michigan says penetrate the C4 supply chain: "One suggestion that has come up where I work is covertly supplying or infiltrating the supply chain of C4, or whatever is the going explosive for terrorists, with ‘quality’ material, which however is ‘intelligent’, say it has embedded GPS and remote triggering, controlled by us, so we can detonate it when and where we want it to go off."