Cabe, this is a great development. Many of our casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, if not a majority, are from IEDs. Being able to detect the chemical signature from a distance will help minimize this. It is all we can do to use our technological edge to remain one step ahead of the terrorists.
As most of the troops leave the area, I am sure that this DIY solution will still be made by the locals. It'll be like radiation detectors in Japan's Fukushima area. It is a sad state of affairs. Perhaps the mindset that is creating the IEDs will start to evolve past violence sometime soon.
Politics aside, the history of booby traps (after all that's what IEDs, land mines, sea mines, etc are) is very interesting. From the American Revolution, forward (maybe even before then), IEDs have been an effective tool in guerilla warfare.
The thing that pushes weapons evolution most in this category is detection. A booby trap that's detected and disarmed is useless to the side that sets it. Ways to work around detection emerge faster than knock offs after Fashion Week. I'd like to see how IEDs improve to in response to this.
Good point about booby traps. Booby traps have negligable military value against an opponent with sufficient numbers of troops. But their true value is political: to delay and demoralize their opponent's troops (so a failed IED is still effective) and to demoralize the folks back home (draining support for an extended conflict). It also diverts troops and R&D funds to deal with them.
Hopefully we will not see IED's improve (or at least, making such improvments too expensive to deplay in large numbers).
I certainly hope that this effort is successful, but I would like to clarify that the dertector should work on "ordnance", not "ordinance". This is a subtlety that is often missed by spell check: the wrong word, not misspelled. I would rather not digress from the subject, but it is a distraction.
"Political" is the most powerful weapon of terrorists! Though I agree that this is a good technology to persue, the key issue is stated in paragraph two. The rules of engagement has turned into a policy of "lawyering up" before a soldier can adequately defend themselves. If we insist on calling it a "war zone" then treat it as such. Otherwise, call it a policing action. However, the latter is not politically expedient!
Politics aside, is this some kind of super sniffer sensor? Or is this some kind of visual detection sensor? I know nothing about explosive sensing, but I do know that the TSA swabs you and your stuff and sticks it into a device. Is this some supersensitive extrapolation of this technology?
Considering western countries (Italy, USA, Israel, Russia) are the top exporters of all types of booby traps, I think we'll certainly see IEDs improve to counter balance this new detection.
When I say "politics aside", it's meant as a reminder that it's not just "us" vs "them". Which is the dominant tone in many posts here. When it comes to devices like this, many need to be protected from "us" as well.
GTOlover, I agree to an extent. The basic motivation behind any form of terrorism is politics and rationalism. The unsatisfied sectors always think about terrorism and they know how to use the weapons in explosive manner. So they are the first hand user for all such technologies.
TJ McDermott, I agree that involvement of the JAG is pretty clunky, but that's the price you pay for using conventional military forces as peace-keepers in a population where everyone is (or is not) a potential threat. If you find yourself in a situation where you think an 8-year-old may be a lethal threat to you or your unit, it's good to have a trained observer present to confirm your opinion prior to using lethal force yourself. You will sleep better, too.
Back on the detector technology, I also really hope this works, but it strikes me as a "wouldn't it be nice?" DARPA-type exercise, secret software or not. Forget about the "hypercube" spatial detection - I'd be amazed to learn that a spectral detector of any type could identify a bare block of C-4 at 50 yards, much less a disguised IED in an uncontrolled environment. In this case, though, I'd love to be proven wrong.
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