Antibomb tech could take a long time

It may be awhile before the military fields technology to counter roadside bombs, a congressman said this week.

During a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, its chairman, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), divulged that it could take a long time before the military can field technology to counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs) such as roadside bombs. Hunter told Acting Secretary Les Brownlee and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker that he wants them:

* Talking to all technical experts schooled in the threat to devise a solution.

* Working with all manufacturers to more quickly produce armor to go on Army Humvees and trucks for more protection.

* Flying every unmanned aerial vehicle the service can muster to detect the devices on roads around Baghdad and central Iraq, called the Sunni Triangle, where most attacks occur. The remote-controlled craft look like big model airplanes but carry cameras and sensors. Pilots or operators fly the aircraft from ground trailers.

More than 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 IEDs.

During the Feb. 25 hearing, Schoomaker and Brownlee declined to talk about Army or military systems that can destroy or temporarily disable these crude bombs. Earlier this month during a similar budget hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee, Schoomaker refused to discuss the IED threat.

The Army leaders told lawmakers they prefer talking about the matter in a private or classified congressional meeting. The service's top civilian official would not discuss IEDs after the hearing.

"We don't talk about it," Brownlee told Federal Computer Week.

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