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US Seeks New Technology Against Improvised Explosives

File photo of US Forces ridding an Iraqi road of a planted IED.

Singapore (AFP) Oct 12, 2005
The United States is seeking proposals for new technology to detect and destroy improvised bombs before they detonate and mitigate their impact if they blow up, a top US Navy officer said Wednesday.

Rear Admiral Jay Cohen, chief of the Office of Naval Research (ONR), told a security conference in Singapore that up to 30 million US dollars would be available to fund the project over a three-year period from December 2005.

He said the goal of the project, which is open to foreign proposals, is to "blow up the bomb-maker" even before he can inflict any damage with an improvised explosive device (IED).

Militant groups are mounting suicide bomb attacks with increasing ferocity and showing greater mastery of techniques to destroy armoured vehicles with roadside bombs in places like Iraq.

In the most recent bombing attack in Asia, three alleged suicide bombers attacked restaurants packed with holiday-makers in the Indonesian resort island of Bali on October 1, killing 20 people.

As terror groups master the use of IEDs, it is crucial to develop the technology to "detect, defeat and destroy" them even before they can do damage, Cohen said.

The ONR, which coordinates, executes, and promotes the science and technology programs of the US Navy and Marine Corps, has sent out a "broad agency announcement" requesting white papers and full proposals.

Awarding of funding to the selected proposals would take place from December through January 2006, according to the ONR website.

The selected submissions would form the foundation for future technologies that may be developed and implemented in order to effectively suppress the threat from IEDs.

Cohen said it was likely that a solution against IEDs would come only in the next five to 10 years, but that it was important to start the process now.

Government laboratories, university-affiliated research centres, industries and scholars should work together for a solution, he added.

"We should have started four years ago but we are where we are. We are fully engaged in this today," he said.

Developing such a technology would "change the calculus" in favour of government forces, he said.

The ONR has received 800 responses so far to its announcement and some of the proposals are "harebrained ideas," Cohen said.

"But that's just my opinion. We are vetting all these and ... if they've got a five percent chance of being successful, we're going to invest in them because we don't have an option. We must win this," he said.

"This is terribly important. This is important to the United States, it's important to our coalition partners, it's important to the world."

Among the other projects of the ONR is a modification of the Humvee vehicle that would give troops more protection from shrapnel that can penetrate thick armour.

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