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Improvised Explosive Devices

Parasitoid Wasp, on Ivy flower, Conamara

In 2007 57% of UN casualties in Afghanistan were caused by IEDs. The Irish Defence Force (IDF) counter-IED group were recommended by the British to take up their role in Afghanistan due to their dealing with threats from paramilitaries during the Troubles. IDF training to deal with IEDs focused on checking for roadside bombs and noticing local people clearing the streets as the UN force arrived in an area.

Most IEDs were crude and mass-produced with each component made in a different village. The individual making a pressure plate would be removed from the battle space, however, some months later this plate would appear elsewhere.

The Ordnance School, Curragh Military Camp, Co Kildare, Ireland currently provides training courses for UN military personnel over many years. The Dublin and Monaghan bombings in 1974 placed by the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) also placed 2 more bombs in Busaras and in Amiens Street which were found months later and had to be defused. A crude bomb robot specifically designed to destroy the IED detonator was followed by the HOBO and the Vagabond robots. These developments exceed the technical knowledge of this writer. Out-thinking the provisional IRA (Irish Republican Army) which used the Republic to build explosives for use in Northern Ireland was required practice. A van bomb, the driver of which would consult a colour coded card before flicking the relevant switches on a wooden box was the next level of sophistication. The switch would start a timer when the bomber could then ride off on his bicycle stored in the van, 30 minutes later a series of mortars would fire in sequence carrying up to 35kg of home made explosives, then, the cab would explode destroying the forensic evidence. This constituted the mortar attack launched on Downing Street in 1991 in an attempt to assassinate PM John Major and again launched at Heathrow Airport over 5 days March 1994.

In March 1993, the IRA left a car in Newry with a mortar pointing out through a hole cut out of the body of the vehicle, rigged to a light sensor attached to the car's rear view mirror. A camera flash from a distance, hit the sensor on the car's rear view mirror fired the mortar and destroying the passing armoured car. The PRIG - Projector Recoilless Improvised Grenade used hard jelly to absorb recoil. The improvised anti-armour hand grenade the next level of sophistication could be stored in Wavin pipes long underground without degrading.

Some 300 IED incidents yearly in 32 county Ireland were dealt with during theTroubles, in Afghanistan some 57,000 IEDs annually was a problem. The IDF EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) unit did not suffer a single casualty in 45 years of service. AI and UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) combined along with the Reacher robot takes samples before humans defuse suspect devices. The Charlie Hebdo attack ensures IED detection and defusing are very relevant along with 70 call-outs in Dublin in 2018 with suspect devices planted by feuding gangs. A swift high velocity jet of water from a robot fired at the detonator usually renders it useless.

An AI, self governing UAV, fully armed with the ability to think and launched by the unthinking Twitter-user-in-Chief is a future frightening scenario.

Source: Inside the Bomb Squad, Thinking like a Terrorist, C. Galagher, Crime Correspondent, The Irish Times, October 12, 2019

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