Spy planes, sensors, biometrics detect IEDs

July 18, 2012 - 

Spy planes, sensors and biometrics have helped curb explosives that threaten US troops in Afghanistan.

There have been significant increases of detecting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) before they have exploded, using high-tech sensors. According to Pentagon’s Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), the rate of discovery, which usually is around 50 percent, has gone up. Troops in vehicles found 64 percent of IEDs before they have been detonated, while troops on foot patrol have found 81 percent.

In an interview with USA Today, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton said: “We are, in terms of detection of all types of IEDs, vastly better than we were a year ago.”

Although he did not mention the aircraft or detection systems used, he credited the use of new airborne surveillance system that Pentagon has fielded to specifically find command wires or ground that has been disturbed to hide IEDs. These are: “desert owl,” a ground-penetrating radar deployed on a piloted aircraft in 2009; and “copperhead,” radar developed at the same time as desert owl but deployed on an unmanned drone.

In congressional testimony delivered in 2008 by Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, who led JIEDDO at the time, he stated that the two systems: “use unique radar for command wire detection, complemented by advanced image-processing algorithms.”

With algorithms and advanced technologies, the playing fields are not level, with United States having technological edge against Taliban’s ground force.

John Pike, executive director of Globalsecurity.org, a defense policy organization, stated: “Everywhere we turn, we’re producing sensors that are cheaper, faster, better. The enemy’s stuck with that damn fertilizer bomb. It is an unequal contest. It is not a level playing field.” He added: “cameras and sensors have become cheaper and faster, and computing ability has increased to sort through the growing amounts of data collected.”

The United States also collects biometric data – fingerprints and retinal scans, from a growing number of Afghans, including those joining security forces or applying for benefits or licenses. Also latent fingerprints from captured IEDs are gathered and used to find terrorist bomb makers. BiometricUpdate.com has reported how the United States and Afghanistan are using biometrics on a wide scale for security.

But such success doesn’t come cheap. JIEDDO has spent more than $18 billion to counter the threat.

Are anti-terror operations enhanced by the use of high-tech sensors and ground penetrating radars?

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About T'ash Spenser

T’ash Spencer writes full time for BiometricUpdate.com. She has 15 years experience in the field of regional planning and earned her Master’s of Science in Regional Development Planning and Management from the University of Dortmund, Germany. Follow her @tashspencer1.