Counter IED Transcript

There are more than 300 improvised explosive device, or IED, threats per month wordwide outside Iraq and Afghanistan. IEDs continue to be the No. 1 killer of troops and citizens in Iraq and Afghanistan. This video highlights current counter IED research efforts underway at the Office of Naval Research (duration: 7:52).

Speaker Key

Schutz: Col. Robert C. Schutz, director, Counter IED Division
Stoffel: Capt. Mark Stofel, deputy program manager, Sciences Addressing Asymmetric Explosive Threats (SAAET), Office of Naval Research
Tremper: DaveTremper, program officer, Electron Warfare Program, Office of Naval Research
Albuquerque: Lisa Albuquerque, program manager, Naval Expeditionary Dog Program, Office of Naval Research
Estabrooke: Ivy Estabrooke, program manager, Human, Social Cultural and Behavioral Sciences Program, Office of Naval Research
Moore: David Moore, research scientist, Los Alamos National Laboratory
Dickens: James Dickens, professor of electrical and computer engineering, Texas Tech


Schutz: IEDs are a tremendous danger in today's battlefield. We've seen their use increase globally over the last years and we expect that trend to continue into the foreseeable future.  

Narrator: The Improvised Explosive Device (IED) problem is global, growing in extent and intensity, and showing no signs of abating.  

Stoffel: What we saw in Iraq for years was the use of conventional ordinance--i.e. military grade weapons, that were left over from Sadam's regime--modified to create the intended effect. What we see more and more in Afghanistan is the use of homemade explosives using fertilizer-based compounds to create the desired effect.  

Tremper: The timing of the research is really the crucial piece of this and it's because we really need to get ahead of the threat, we need to outpace that threat and intercept where it's planning to go.  

Narrator: For the greater protection of out armed forces, the Office of Naval Research, ONR, is supporting the science and technology development that will help counter the threat of IEDs now and into the future. And the challenges for combating IEDs are many.  

Stoffel: The big challenge of the IED is that there is no single silver bullet. Long term solutions to the IED are going to involve multiple modalities, multiple technologies brought together that are complimentary. And they're going to be both technical and non-technical.

Narrator: The best non-technical sensor in the world is a dog's nose. And adapting to the changing threat is a challenge the dog program also faces.  

Albuquerque: How do we adapt that asset to meet the changing mission threat environment that we find ourselves in?   

Narrator: ONR's research discovered that dogs suitable for IED detection are very different from traditional military police dogs. They must be sociable, non-aggressive and independent. Hunting dogs, like the Labrador Retriever, are just as at home working off leash with infantry units in Afghanistan hunting hidden IEDs.  The ONR Counter IED team is multifaceted and comprehensive. The program is known as Sciences Addressing Asymmetric Explosive Threats, or SAAET, and has four major tenets: anticipate-affect, detect, neutralize, and mitigate.  

Stoffel: Anticipate-affect, and that is looking at different aspects of human behavior that we can try to understand better than we currently do and to get the insurgent networks that are behind the IED in many areas around the world.  

Narrator: The IED is one of the most effective and lethal weapons of the terrorist. One of the key solutions lies in understanding the motives behind planting IEDs. Ivy Estabrooke's work merges the social sciences aspect with technology solutions to better understand the why.  

Estabrooke: What are the influences, motivations, intentions of the people who plant IEDs? How do we influence them before they go down the road of becoming radicalized and choosing to be involved in IED acts? 

Stoffel: There is a detect tenet which is looking at the ability to detect explosive compounds as well as explosive devices from a safe standoff range, say 100 meters or more. 

Moore: We found that there are very unique frequency regimes that are emitted by different kinds of explosives like sandstone, marble, HMX-containing things, military kinds of explosives as well as homemade types of explosives like ammonium nitrate.  

Narrator: While future standoff detection solutions are in the works, right now the dog provides the best detection ONR can provide the warfighter.  

Albuquerque: From that initial 21 dogs that were fielded in Al Anbar Province in 2007, the Marine Corps now has 247 dogs with 140 in theater probably as we speak, and are on their way up to ... they just increased their requirements to over 500.  

Stoffel: There is a neutralize tenet where we're looking at new ways of neutralizing the devices or neutralizing the explosive compounds again from a safe standoff distance. 

Dickens: We knew that from our previous experience our previous research, that high -ower microwaves, compact pulse power could play a role in defeating IED technology.  

Stoffel: Finally there's a mitigate tenet that is our last line of defense. We're looking at new materials for personal protective equipment, body armor, ballistic glass, bullet proof glass, those kind of applications, eventual applications.  

Tremper: Down the road we're trying to protect the Soldiers, Sailors and Marines, so it is critical that we develop those technologies now that are adaptive so that we can outpace the threat then.  

Dickens: Counter IED technology, one of the things you need is very compact systems. You can no longer have a system that takes up a large room. It needs to be able to fit in a HUMVEE it needs to be man-portable.  

Narrator: ONR's research is already making a difference on the battlefield.  

[Listed: True standoff detection of explosives, photo-acoustic detector of explosive trace residue, improved radar recognition algorithms, optimized probing of enemy networks]

Albuquerque: The Marine Corps has had tremendous success with the IED detect-a-dog program. 

Tremper: We are developing radio frequency components and subsystems that are almost beyond the cutting edge so that we can integrate those into future systems.  

Estabrooke: We have several examples where understanding or knowledge that's been developed out of some of our programs has been informing current operations in Afghanistan.  

Narrator: ONR, by engaging the IED problem scientifically, prioritizing their investments and increasing the research knowledge base, is contributing to enduring solutions that will be resistant to adaptation.

Dickens: ONR's support is extremely important. Without ONR's support, we simply couldn't afford to do the kind of research we're doing today.  

Narrator: Research that will help protect our Sailors and Marines now and in the future.  

Tremper: They're risking their lives every day and the only risk I have is in my commute to work. The best that I can do is sit at my desk and do what I can, which is develop the capabilities to protect them. 

Stoffel: Our measure of success for this program is going to be when Marines and Sailors have knowledge of these IEDs in terms of location, in terms of whose been enplacing them, how to avoid them, how to neutralize them, because when we do that, the bad guys are going to move on to something else.  

Schutz:  The Navy and Marine Corps is doing a lot to respond to the immediate challenges of IEDs, but it's imperative that we institutionalize long-term strategies and solutions to take that strategic weapon of choice away from our enemies.

[For more information about  CIED or ONR, contact Deputy Program Manager Capt. Mark Stoffel, USN, at]


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