While the term Explosively Formed Penetrator (EFP), will probably always bring to mind the use that Iraqi Shiite militias made of them against American armored vehicles, they’ve actually been around in some form since WWII. And now, the U.S. Army has designed its own version.
Textron and the U.S. Army have worked for several years to develop a networked system that can launch an EFP slug for use in force protection and road access denial, but after a round of successful tests in 2009, and then again this past spring, the Army is keeping the weapon on the shelf until it sees the need to invest more cash in the system.
Called the Scorpion, the idea behind the system is that it can replace landmines as both a way to set up a protective field around a fixed site, or to block a roadway. Capable of being about 50 meters away from its target, the device uses acoustic and seismic sensors to detect a threat and warn an operator who is manning a laptop at a safe standoff distance. Once the operator identifies the approaching vehicles as hostile, he gives the Scorpion the ok to fire. That’s where the EFP comes in.
One of the four launchers on the box fires a projectile 50-60 feet in the air, where it then uses its laser radar to determine that “I found something that’s higher than the normal terrain,” says Jay Johnson, Textron's director of business development. Then it begins looking for a heat source, and when it finds it, it fires the EFP down at the engine. The EFP consists of one main charge and 16 small ones, with the large molten copper charge shooting for the heat-producing engine, while the smaller ones makes a circle around it.
Johnson said that the system can be temporarily disabled to allow for civilian or friendly vehicles to pass, and several Scorpions can be networked together to form a field of fire. After passing a live fire test in 2009, the Army’s Project Manager Close Combat Systems gushed in a release that Scorpion “gives U.S. forces the ability to detect and neutralize enemy forces, cover gaps in dangerous terrain to prevent enemy maneuver, protect fixed facilities and secure flanks, allow for movement of friendly forces, and provide for immediate selective engagement.”The problem is, despite passing an Army Critical Design Review in July 2009 and completing a government design verification field test earlier this year, the Army is more focused on the fight since Iraq and Afghanistan, and not necessarily trying to counter armored vehicles. Still, Robert Polutchko, vice president, Aerial Denial for Textron says that “we’re at a good mature level of the system” so that while the Army wants to hold off on the capability for now, it’s still a potential tool in its toolbox.
When asked if the company was looking for possible foreign customers, Johnson said that since it is an Army product, the service would have to sign off on any deals.
Pics, US Army; Textron