Sunday, January 21, 2007

I talk, and talk, say nothing

Does "Paleoprog" contribute anything to the otherwise indispensable American Footprints at all? Consider this thread, where he is defending the Iranian-IED stories on the grounds that
i base it on what the president, rice, gates and others are now saying.
If I had decided to disbelieve any statement from any of these people out of hand, I'm not sure I'd have lost any net information. But anyway, the Iranian-IED meme is worthy of further consideration. Politicians and senior US generals (if there is a useful distinction between the two categories) routinely brief the press that the best IEDs come from Iran, without ever producing any evidence of this. Now, I know it's difficult, but they never even give any reason to believe this. Just as routinely, intelligence and army sources counterbrief that there is no evidence.

Less often, named officers go on-the-record with this. The Defence Secretary, Des "Swiss Toni" Browne, has said there is no evidence. So has Lieutenant-Colonel David Labouchere, commanding the Queen's Royal Hussars battlegroup on the Iranian border of Maysan. I'm sure I remember Major-General Jim Dutton, RM, saying so in an interview. Ah yes, "a lot of speculation but not many facts."

So is there any reason to believe it? The IEDs of which they speak are the ones described as EFPs, for explosively-formed projectile. This means that the explosive is contained around a cone of metal, copper for preference, which is melted by the explosion and driven as a solid slug into the target. This approximates the way modern tank guns work, (well, as numerous commenters point out, the way anti-tank missiles, RPGs and the like work, although in my defence I will point to HEAT ammunition) and will penetrate practically any armour. Especially advanced ones use compressed gas as a fuel-air explosive to push it and either one of many kinds of command-detonator or an infra-red sensor as a trigger.

There's nothing incredibly complicated in that. When you think that Iraq in 1991 had a nuclear programme and a space programme, and that even in 2003 it was able to build its own rockets (the Al Samoud IIs), it should be no surprise that there are people running about who could design one. And that's the difficult bit. The rest just requires a sheet-metal workshop.

Personally, I think the conviction - for without any evidence whatsoever, what else is it? - that EFPs must come from Iran is only explicable by a refusal to believe that Iraq has smart people. The epitaph of the Iraq project is that they are all on the other side.

Update: Check out the new post for more shrilling revelations.

3 comments:

Eric said...

Fine post Alex. Very informative.

-Eric Martin

Anonymous said...

The IEDs of which they speak are the ones described as EFPs, for explosively-formed projectile. This means that the explosive is contained around a cone of metal, copper for preference, which is melted by the explosion and driven as a solid slug into the target. This approximates the way modern tank guns work, and will penetrate practically any armour.

Not quite; modern tank guns fire a sabot shell, basically a big thin dart of solid metal, that doesn't contain any explosive - the kinetic energy does the damage. What this sounds like is a shaped-charge weapon, which is the way modern anti-tank missiles work - and, in fact, have done since the Second World War.

Anonymous said...

Tank rounds, broadly speaking, come into two varietes: shaped charge explosive warheads like the IEDs mentioned, used against bunkers, buildings, and light-skinned vehicles. Sabot rounds, generally speaking, are used against more heavily-armed targets like other tanks, especially those armored with reactive armor specifically designed to defeat shaped-charge warheads.

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