The Incontiguous Brick

February 10, 2010

The Speed of a Sniffing Dog

Filed under: Our World,politics — iknowkeith @ 12:01 am

Andrew Johnson writing  for the Independent stated that:

“Taliban fighters have developed a deadly new generation of their most lethal weapon, the improvised explosive device, or IED, which is almost undetectable because it has no metal or electronic parts.”


“Earlier in the war, IEDs would be mostly triggered by two hack-saw blades separated using a spacer. When the blades were stepped on or driven over they would complete an electronic circuit which so detonated the explosive – often an artillery shell…

metal saw blades have now also been replaced with graphite blades and the artillery shells with ammonium nitrate. The damage is caused by the power of the blast rather than metal fragments, or shrapnel.”

In case you were not sure… this is bad.  Without metal or electronics, the only way to detect that type of bomb (before detonation… after is easy) is with dogs.

“One brigade commander posted to Afghanistan said that sniffer dogs were the most reliable way of detecting IEDs, but this method took a long time and required a lot of animals. Already convoys have to move at very
slow speeds while roads ahead are checked for explosives. “

All our modern military transportation technology has been reduced to the speed of a sniffing dog by a pile of wood and fertilizer?   Wow.

This is the pain that is  guerrilla warfare…  and a great illustration of how low-tech insurgencies can throw sand in the gears of high-tech conventional forces.  This kind of war is not what our forces are optimized to fight.  I am not suggesting we completely retool our military to be optimized against Taliban and the Wooden Bomb Brigade because that would leave use vulnerable to other modern military forces and that is not cool.  But I think we will have to acknowledge that this is going to be messy and no fun and if we are going to keep slogging it out with these guys then we are going to have some losses.  You can “out tech” a low technology but modern army (i.e. Iraq in 1991), but that doesn’t work if the enemy plays by different rules all together and goes for “no tech”.

One criticism… in the beginning of the article he called these IED’s a “new generation” weapon.  I have a problem with that.   Typically, when talking about new generations of weapons and styles of warfare, it refers to a technological advance that must be matched or surpassed to be defeated.  (cannons over catapults, guns over swords and bows, maneuver warfare over trench warfare, etc).  This is not a “new generation” weapon any more than insurgency/guerrilla tactics are a “new generation” of warfare.  Traps, tricks, underhanded terror tactics (assassination, bombs, etc) have been around for centuries.  These are not new.   They are just becoming more difficult to fight against because we hate to admit that they are still effective against all our expensive toys.


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