Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Explosively Formed Penetrators
"E.F.P.’s are one of the most devastating weapons on the battlefield. The weapons fire a semi-molten copper slug that cuts through the armor on a Humvee, then shatters inside the vehicle, creating a deadly hail of hot metal that causes especially gruesome wounds even when it does not kill.
Many of the E.F.P.’s encountered by American forces in Iraq are both difficult to detect and extremely destructive. Because they fire from the side of the road, there is no need to dig a hole to plant them, so they are well suited for urban settings. Because they are set off by a passive infrared sensor, the kind of motion detector that turns on security lights, they cannot be countered by electronic jamming.
Adversaries have used the weapon in new ways. On Feb. 12, a British Air Force C-130 was damaged by two E.F.P arrays as it landed on an airstrip in Maysan Province, the first time the device was used to attack an aircraft, according to allied officials. Allied forces later destroyed the aircraft with a 1,000-pound bomb to keep militants from pilfering equipment.
Over the course of the war, the devices have accounted for only a small fraction of the roadside bomb attacks in Iraq; most bombing attacks and most American deaths have been caused by less sophisticated devices favored by Sunni insurgents, not Shiite militias linked to Iran. But E.F.P.’s produce significantly more casualties per attack than other types of roadside bombs.
“They were a new type of threat with a great potential for damage,” said Lt. Col. Kevin W. Farrell, who commanded the First Battalion, 64th Armor of the Third Infantry Division, in 2005, when a penetrator punched through the skirt armor of one of the battalion’s M-1 tanks and cracked its hull. “They accounted for a sizable percentage of our casualties. Based on searches of the Baghdad environment we occupied and multiple local Iraqi sources, we believed that they came from Iran.”
U.S. Long Worried That Iran Supplied Arms in Iraq
MICHAEL R. GORDON and SCOTT SHANE
NYTimes, March 27, 2007
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