U.S. soldiers looking for IED cache in Iraq. (Pic: Paul McLeary)
Do you have an idea for a vehicle-mounted, ground penetrating radar that can detect improvised explosive devices (IEDs) made of anything from metal, to plastic, to wood, which may contain either conventional or homemade explosives? Also, it would be useful if your solution could stream information to the vehicle operator in real time while also being able to transmit the data--in real time--to another vehicle up to 1 Km. away.
If you have a device that can meet these requirements, and if you can package your idea up by November 22nd, the U.S. Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) wants to hear from you. In a notice posted late last week, RDECOM announced that it wants to hear from industry on what it can bring to the fight to detect these kinds of non-metallic IEDs, so it can pass the information along to the Army Rapid Equipping Force.
If you’ve been paying attention to the fight in Afghanistan, it’s pretty clear what is happening here. Unlike Iraq where most IEDs were cobbled together using military munitions like artillery shells and landmines, and were triggered remotely using everything from command wire to cell phones to garage door openers, Afghan insurgents have taken a much different approach. Given the lack of munitions at their disposal, the Taliban and other insurgent groups construct their crude--yet effective--roadside bombs out of things like agricultural fertilizer or homemade explosives, often housing them in wooden boxes and relying on pressure plate designs that thwart the metal detectors and radio wave jammers that worked so well in Iraq. This has made them harder to detect, and has also meant an uptick in cheap bombs that are placed along footpaths that kill or injure soldiers when they step on them.
From the looks of the Army request, the service is looking for something to try and level the playing field, and thinks ground penetrating radar might be it. The short document is interesting, since even though the technology is meant to be fielded quickly, the request also includes demands for things like target recognition and data storage to help build a historical picture of the location and type of IED found:
The GPR [ground penetrating radar] system must contain an automatic target recognition (ATR) feature which will automatically nominate potential targets to the operator. The ATR feature must provide both audio and visual cues to the operator.
The system must have the ability to store mission data and recall that mission data as needed, even while GPR and ATR are in operation. Historical mission data must be able to be uploaded into searchable mission history databases. Even if fielded rapidly however, it will be quite some time, we suspect, before any such radar can make its way into theater. We’ll be keeping our eyes on this one.