Army looks to IT for defending troops

Nearly 300 U.S. and coalition soldiers have been killed or wounded as a result of roadside bombs in Iraq, but an Army report suggests several technologies that Coalition Provisional Authority forces can use to defend against those threats.

The report, "Improvised Explosive Devices Related Matters in Operation Iraqi Freedom," recommends using jammers, thermal and vehicle-mounted mine-detection systems, radio frequency devices, armor and the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network to disable, destroy and collect data on these so-called improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Experts said that U.S. and coalition forces possess useful technologies to combat IEDs. But they need to combine the right technologies with the right tactics, techniques and procedures to deal with Iraq's complex desert and urban terrains, said Paul Hoeper, who was assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology during the Clinton administration.

Army officials did not respond to a request for comment on the report.

Les Brownlee, acting Army secretary, considers U.S. and coalition forces still at war in Iraq and said the service must combat IEDs, according to an Army official at the Pentagon who requested anonymity. The official attended a November meeting directed by Brownlee on the threat IEDs pose in Iraq.

"Like other force-protection measures, this is urgent," Brownlee wrote in a Nov. 7 memorandum to top service leaders.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency declined comment on the report. However, the military's research and development shop continues work on technologies that detect various targets in combat, said DARPA spokeswoman Jan Walker.

The agency would consider moving promising technologies from the laboratory to the battlefield if commanders in combat zones requested them, Walker said. But she declined to comment on whether Army leaders asked DARPA to do this regarding IEDs.

In addition to using technologies, the Army should create special engineer forces, said Mike Sparks, co-author of "Air-Mech-Strike: Asymmetric Maneuver Warfare for the 21st Century."

These units would patrol roads, searching for mines and ambushing Iraqi insurgents attempting to lay them so U.S. and coalition convoys can safely transport food, fuel, water and ammunition, said Sparks, an Army Reserve officer.

The report said engineer forces available for daily route clearance operations in Iraq are limited.

Soldiers from Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., home of the service's Countermine/Counter Booby Trap Center, visited Army engineer, mine and explosive ordnance units in Iraq in September to discuss the IED threat.

U.S. and coalition forces experienced 445 IED incidents from July 1 to Sept. 17 in Iraq, with Iraqi insurgents carrying out about 10 incidents per day. IEDs wounded 273 U.S. personnel and killed 21. They injured two and killed one from coalition forces, the report said.

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