2007 May 13 Sunday
Iraqi Insurgents Building Better Bombs

An AP article about whether the Stryker armored combat vehicle is too lightweight for Iraq makes an interesting point: The Iraqi insurgents can build bombs so powerful that they even knock out M1A1 Abrams tanks.

But Antonio said some insurgents had found "the right mix of explosives and IED positioning to inflict severe damage on the vehicle." He also noted that tanks had also proved vulnerable too.

The insurgents are also becoming better at hiding the devices the IED that killed the six soldiers and the journalist was believed hidden in a sewer line. To add potency, insurgents surrounded the device with cement to channel the blast force up into the tank, according to soldiers familiar with the investigation.

Supporters of the Strykers say all that proves that it's the lethality of bombs in Iraq not the Strykers themselves that are the problem: The bombs are now so powerful that even Abrams main battle tanks are vulnerable to some of them.

The Strykers and even the Abrams are getting blown up by custom made bombs. The bomb developers do not have large staffs of engineers and scientists. They do not have the ability to call up lots of machine tool suppliers or electronic motherboard design firms. With tools which are relatively crude they are building and planting bombs that are knocking out multi-million dollar US military armored vehicles. They are also getting better at hiding bombs.

By contrast the US military is not developing more blast resistant vehicles at anywhere near the rate at which the bombers are developing better bombs.

The insurgents are very cheaply damaging and destroying very expensive pieces of equipment. The Stryker costs over $4 million per vehicle.

Estimated total costs for the Stryker vehicle program increased about 22 percent, from the original November 2000 estimate, in then-year dollars, of $7.1 billion to the December 2003 estimate of $8.7 billion. The average acquisition cost per vehicle increased from $3.34 million to $4.13 million during the same time period.

The M1A2 Abrams main battle tank costs about $5.6 million each. Even before the insurgents started building bombs that'll knock out the US Army's main battle tank the Iraq war was wearing out and damaging equipment faster than the US military could repair it. A news story from December 2006 reports that the Iraq war is inflicting $17 billion in equipment damage per year.

ANNISTON, Ala. - Field upon field of more than 1,000 battered M1 tanks, howitzers and other armored vehicles sit amid weeds here at the 15,000-acre Anniston Army Depot -- the idle, hulking formations symbolic of an Army that is wearing out faster than it is being rebuilt.

The Army and Marine Corps have sunk more than 40 percent of their ground combat equipment into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to government data. An estimated $17 billion-plus worth of military equipment is destroyed or worn out each year, blasted by bombs, ground down by desert sand and used up to nine times the rate in times of peace. The gear is piling up at depots such as Anniston, waiting to be repaired.

But since the troop surge the burn rate on equipment has probably risen.

The US military is ill-equipped to cost effectively engage an enemy that is practicing asymmetric warfare. We are wasting precious lives and treasure in a civil war between Sunnis and Shias and between various factions of each.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 May 13 09:26 PM  MidEast Iraq Military Needs

Wolf-Dog said at May 13, 2007 9:43 PM:

It takes about $1 to $2 billion to build a modern nuclear plant. At the cost of just the damaged military equipment, we can build 10 reactors per year, for a total of 100 in 10 years. If the US switches to plug-in hybrid cars with pure electric range 40 miles per charge, then since 75 % of the people drive less than 40 miles per day, probably 100 nuclear reactors would be enough to charge 250 million cars per day.

John S Bolton said at May 14, 2007 12:44 AM:

Except that, then, some other countries get cheap oil, and use it to shut down the export sectors of the conserving countries.
The magnitude of the waste involved in preserving the fiction of the Iraqi nation
is so great that, one would have to conclude that the assumption of good faith is unwarranted here.
The new faux-ideal being used by the administration is
Never mind the hypocrisy involved in the notion of promoting reconciliation with tanks and machine guns.
The ideal is fake; you can have too much reconciliation,
and any reconciliation is too much, with the wrong parties.

Big Bill said at May 14, 2007 5:28 AM:

Rather than p!ss away our cash on these vehicles, we ought to take a look at what the white Rhodesians did to defend against guerrilla landmines. The technologies they came up with were very creative:


It will not change the outcome, of course, which will be the same for us as for the Rhodesians.

tommy said at May 14, 2007 9:09 PM:

The British had similar problems with the IRA at one time. The end result was that much of the British commando force in Northern Ireland had to be shuttled around in helicopters to avoid roadside bombs.

The obvious wastefulness of this war aside, we could certainly use a new generation of vehicle armor. We also need lighter, more flexible body armor. I remember seeing a clip of some crazy inventor out in Canada has been working on some secret but inexpensive material called "1313 Paste" that might hold promise in the armor arena also:


(This guy is infamous for having invented a "bear-fighting suit!")

I saw a video clip of them firing all sorts of stuff at a thin block of 1313 Paste and it stood up without any problem. I don't know if it can handle shaped charges, but for such a low cost material we ought to be able to make widespread use of this stuff and seriously improve upon it.

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