Low Metal Content

Bomb Tricks and Techniques in Afghanistan


08 July 2011

The enemy sees our people use metal detectors every day.  Last time I was with the British, hardly a step was taken without waving the divining rod over the ground.  You try to step into the step of the troop in front of you, and there are times when you don’t even take a single step off that hairline, intermittent path unless you are in a firefight.  But even on paths that are “cleared,” if only by a metal detector and then only the precise footsteps you are trying to match—which dangerously refocuses your attention—that is not enough.  Expertly trained dogs won’t do it.  They are highly useful in equally highly constrained ways.  Dogs will walk right over a bomb and must be kept cool like a tuna sandwich or, at best, they won’t work.  Their attention span in the heat wanders like that of a puppy.  In the heat of southern Afghanistan, dogs don’t look for bombs; they seek shade and water and quickly become a liability.

The “cleared” path is not cleared.  The only part that has been pressure-tested has a boot print as a seal of approval, and that’s only true on ground where you can see a boot print.  Even on soft ground, you can only see boot prints during daylight.  At night you only use flashlights after someone is wounded or killed.  Still, the boot print stamp of approval is worth little more than an Afghan promissory note.  Oftentimes the first trooper who steps on a trigger does not get blown up.  It might be the third or fourth or seventh.  Others already have stepped on the trigger but it did not fire.  Even that is not the rest of the story.  The bomb itself often is not with the trigger.  The man who steps on a simple land mine is the man who bears the brunt.  But with these IEDs, the trigger might detonate multiple explosives “daisy chained” along the way.

To foil the first line of defense, the enemy has created low metal content triggers.  Some are of plastic or wood.  Others use the carbon rod component of D-cell batteries.  The enemy knows that our metal detectors will miss the conductive carbon rod, and so they pull these out.  Batteries that have been ripped apart is bad sign.

165923-3-web-1000pxThe carbon rod

Invariably someone will cry OPSEC violation here.  It’s not; I learned this from the enemy.  Their OPSEC has been violated, not ours.  That they know that we know that they know that we know they use RPGs; is not an OPSEC violation.  Nor is this.


The carbon rods are installed in an improvised crush plate.


Foam separates the rods and sometimes the first person to step on it does not sufficiently crush the foam.  The relatively low metal in the wires might be missed by the detector.


Connection is made and detonation occurs.


The improvised explosives are often found in these bright jugs.  These jugs often contain an anti-handling device and when the jug is disturbed, it explodes.

The many tricks are evolving. 


+2 # Mattias Nilsson 2011-07-08 10:54
Hello, I am currently on my third deployed in Afghanistan in a rifleunit.

This might not fall under opsec, but is it so wise spreading information about how to build low metal content pressure plates, that are harder to find than conventional pressure plates.

Many of the TTP of the INS arent that widespread, and all of the provinces havent seen low metal content devices yet, and aiding the enemy with a building instruction as you just did is highley unprofessional.

Anyway this is not the right forum for this, use the right channels for educating if you feel a urge to spread your knowlege...
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# Graveyard Post, sorry!Active EOD 2016-03-07 21:54
Hi there!

Just stumbled upon this page and wanted to dig up the good old OPSEC battle. I don't think OPSEC is necessarily the thing to worry about; you're actually violating the EOD SCG (Security Classification Guide); you may want to grab a copy and check out para 06.2, A.(2).
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-1 # Claudia 2011-07-08 10:57
"simple land mine is the man who bears the brunt" .... so true. I remember well that troops has cleared the road of landmines before we went to the town. The thought that now IED's creates multiple explosions is just scary. Very scary. What a freakish weapon for cowards. God bless you and the troops. May you come home safely. My prayers for those poor people in the civil population who has to deal with that as well. Thank you!
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# Claudia 2011-07-08 11:03
"a simple land mine is the man who bears the brunt", so true. I remember well that troops has to clear the roads before we went to the town. The thought that now IED's creates multiple explosions is scary. Very scary. God bless you and the troops. May come home safely. My prayers for those poor man in the civilan population who has to deal with that was well. Thank you!
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# Lt. A. Ohlsson 2011-07-08 11:08
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# Michael Yon@gmail. 2011-07-08 11:09

Thank you. Will file that under the "I learned it from the enemy and so it's not an OPSEC violation" folder. :-) Be careful out there. Maybe one our our people -- who actually have access to the internet unlike most Taliban -- will read this and add something to his/her knowledge that can keep them safe. And besides, we were doing more impressive stuff in highschool.
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# Jeff C 2011-07-08 12:14
I feel more secure with a video game character fighting on our side.
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# CEXC mofo 2011-07-08 13:17
Ur a CEXC be-ach michael! :lol: Lol
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# lone_wulfe 2011-07-08 13:35
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+1 # USN EOD LCDR 2011-07-08 13:35
Anyone with real use for this information can get it from JKnIFE. The bad guys in Afghanistan may already know about this, but there's no need to educate the ones in California.
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# Michael Yon 2011-07-08 13:47
Anyone who is online reading this can find a hundred times more information in maybe 5 minutes. I don't make the facts. That's a fact.
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# Republicus Maximus 2011-07-08 13:48
It's simple, quit walking around and just kill the shit out of them.
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# Gerard 2011-07-08 13:50
Low metal content landmines have been used since WWII. No secrets are being revealed here.
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# Charles 2011-07-08 14:24
In WWII they adapted tanks to push large metal rollers or revolving flails ahead of the tank to detonate mines.

Obviouly this would not be suitable in much of Afghanistan but in many places it might be.
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+1 # Mach2 2011-07-08 14:31
There is a simple solution to this problem. Chain-gang 30 captured enemy together as a group, hand them a sealed can of bacon lard, and make them walk ahead of our troops. Let THEM step on the triggers. Not politically correct, but nonetheless, effective.
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-1 # John-Capt in ANG 2011-07-08 14:43
I laughed because the last time I read what you've written it as stamped top, bottom, front and back. I know you disageed with common OPSEC during Wikileaks but the fact still remains: public disclosure doesn't mean it should be repeated. I can also find publicly how to make Meth but it doesn't make it a good idea to document and show more detail.

I've just come to expect this forum to play fast and loose with OpSEC. It's never as bad as when I watched Geraldo draw our current ops in dirt on live TV for the enemy to watch how we planned to attack in the next couple hours, but... Geraldo never wore a uniform either. I know that's a bit harsh but maybe I'm naive to expect a former SpecOps to be less forthright with specifics on how to kill us effectively. Maybe you can outline limitations of our hammers with public info :-)
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-1 # John-Capt in ANG 2011-07-08 14:45
I meant outline the limitations of our jammers (not hammers...)
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# Michael 2011-07-08 14:52
A few of the solutions you guys have recommended are already used or tried. Except for Mach2's I believe.
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# Rolland 2011-07-08 15:40
As stated, this is the enemy's TTP; they already know. An OPSEC violation would be what our guys are doing to try to counter this. Which Mr. Yon does not even hint at.
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# Gary 2011-07-08 15:56
This is coming close to war reporting. I am glad to see that after months of press releases.
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# norm 2011-07-08 15:57
Thanks for illustrating to my American grand kids how to have some fun. And their counterparts across American cities.
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# Chief Lake 2011-07-08 16:03
One might consider ignorance is bliss, but the people over there don’t need an instruction manual on how to build bombs. Highly unprofessional would not apply when the local public lacks the correct knowledge on how a war is fought in other parts of the world. Besides it might also save someone’s life by knowing what to look for whether it's Afghanistan or the Northern part of Mexico. Over here in the land of Kool-Aid drinkers they believe our military are the bad guys, because the conflict wasn’t bless by their leadership. Besides it doesn’t take a person with a PHD to build bombs or kill another person. Over time your enemy will improve with experience and your unwillingness to share information. Sergeant Nilsson thanks for serving your country and supporting us in these times of war.
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# jonq 2011-07-08 17:20
Dare I say typical navy eod...
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# Peter Olney 2011-07-08 20:05
Our son-in-law has returned from a 1-year deployment in Kandahar.

He says that you divulge TOO MUCH INFO, Michael. Please be aware and be careful not to give away operational or other info that the enemy can use.

Thank you
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# John-Capt in ANG 2011-07-08 20:37
Remember during WW2 the posters, loose lips sink ships? It didnt try to qualify it, " well it doesn't take a phd," or play semantics, "it's THEIR ttp so it's ok." in some cases, yes, they think we know it all but in others they may not. For example, Afghanistan is a very very resource poor country. It's not Iraq with oil. Any one who says we are there for XYZ resources (be it precious metals, gas, etc) has never stepped foot there. Even if they have huge oil fields, there no support to bring it to market for at least a decade. So back on point, they use jugs and carved out batteries because it's easier to find than Mil grade explosives. So they may be planning to switch given whatever reason when they read, "Americans have a problem with carbon based detonators from batteries." The Paki handler stops, and then realizes it's a mistake to switch from unreliable old batteries to the batch of ABC he just got from his Iranian friend. We caught OBL through LITTLE lapses in his OPSEC.
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# John-Capt in ANG 2011-07-08 20:48
Quoting Mach2:
There is a simple solution to this problem. Chain-gang 30 captured enemy together as a group, hand them a sealed can of bacon lard, and make them walk ahead of our troops. Let THEM step on the triggers. Not politically correct, but nonetheless, effective.

This is already dismissed in the article. AL quieda and Taliban have a growing rift due to CIVCAS. I won't cite numbers for OpSEC reasons but the enemy kills huge numbers more civilians than 150k troops with armed UAVs, aircraft, etc. They complete the IEDs circuit via "intelligent means" so the 30 happy go lucky walk unharmed ahead of the MRAP that gets lit up.

What's worse is when the ANA can't wait for US EOD and throw the IEDs in the back of their Ford Ranger truck. I promise you that truck doesn't Only Roll Downhill.
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# Wes 2011-07-08 21:08
This might not fall under opsec, but is it so wise spreading information about how to build low metal content pressure plates, that are harder to find than conventional pressure plates.

Matthias, I'm going to respectfully disagree. My bonafides: 10 years intel work and IED defeat. These IED models are readily available online. Anyone with the resources to view this website with a computer can find a step by step model of how to do it, sometimes even on Wikipedia, which is where I learned how to make EFPs.

my .02
Semper Anticus
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# Almost EOD 2011-07-08 21:38
This isn't all together new and unheard of, I don't think Mr. Yon is giving anything really secret away here. If EOD1(it looks like) Smith was willing to pose for all of the photos, he clearly has confidence that this is not super secret alpha one stuff we're dealing with. And if America's children are a concern for building these kind of explosive devices, perhaps we all need to reconsider how we are bringing up the youth of the nation. Besides, they'll all invariably go to any of the really well known literature for ideas. This just goes to show what our troops are dealing with on a regular basis.
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# Rudy 2011-07-08 22:29
I have a room, a steak and all the beer you can swig if you are ever in DC, mate.


PS - my wife is a great cook!!
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# Reality check ppl! 2011-07-08 23:24
Everyone I grew up with made pressure-plate triggers with FAR less metal than these (magnet wire or wire-wrap wire & foam & cardboard or wood is all it takes!) for everything from haunted house activators to scaring your little sister or 'alarming' your bedroom or clubhouse. Get a grip people, there is nothing here that wasn't around decades ago. AND is easily learned about by any idiot today. Oh, hey, let's shut down the internet and burn all books, then we won't know how to hurt each other! What fools.
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# More Please 2011-07-09 15:14

Well done for producing this article. For those complaining about opsec, I have some news for you.... non ferrous explosive devices are as old as explosives!! Gasp; is that a shock? Some further news for you; there are people all over the world who know how to use explosives in a non friendly manner. There is no secret to it. Nothing Michael Yon has written is new. It is all easily available on the net.

Michael, I would be interested in further related articles; e.g. three dimensional ied, layer systems, and even 4D ied.

Interestingly enough I was questioned by someone with prior military experience who could not comprehend the difficulties of afghanistan. I briefed the person as to what might constitute an ied, or evidence of one. I then took him for a walk down a street and said "Okay, where might there be an ied?" That really did bring it home to home the difficulties.
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+1 # Marvin L 2011-07-09 15:55
You really have to give our military men and women a tremendous amount of respect. It's one thing to be aware of the danger, but their ability to overcome their fears and travel the paths that contain hidden explosives or insurgents waiting to ambush them takes the word courage to another level.
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# Violette 2011-07-11 06:28
What's happening to my friend Joe Paluka,
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-2 # Norris Palmer 2011-07-12 14:29
Can anyone explain why the people that we armed don't like us anymore after we invaded them, killed their children, and continue to spend our American Children's future on this stupid political exercise scosting arms and legs of my friends and neighbors? We have already destroyed over 1,000,000 lives of human beings since the World Trad Center was attacked by a group of around 80 extremists.
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-1 # CPT Dan 2011-07-12 15:16
Wait wait wait... You people really don't see the violations here? Where were these pictures taken? Probably in a building peripheral to a TOC or CP but judging by the charts on the wall, probably inside one. Ignore the obvious face shot of the guy in the background who is probably an interpreter. And add in the name and rank of a Naval WIT soldier. Thanks bud! Keep it up.
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-1 # Serious 2011-07-12 15:21
"What a freakish weapon for cowards." Ever heard of the BLU-97 ?
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# Michael Yon 2011-07-12 15:29
CPT Dan -- am going to have to throw a clown card down on your statement. I was cleared to photograph. Military personal are in the news everyday with their nametags. The military itself publishes such photos probably every day. I'll be embedding tomorrow. Would not happen if I violated OPSEC. That's milkook talk as when Blackfive accused me of being disembedded from Canadian forces for OPSEC violations. I was never embedded with Canadian forces. Blackfive destroyed their credibility. You are at risk of same. Think before you write...
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# Cam 2011-07-12 17:36
Quoting Michael Yon:
I'll be embedding tomorrow. Would not happen if I violated OPSEC.

With who? I thought you left Afghanistan yesterday?

BTW, is anyone who disagrees with you guilty of being a tool for the Blackfive bloggers? All I see in the comments is a few people guilty of nothing more than common sense and independent critical thinking based on their experience. How do you answer the parent whose son came back and said you give away too much information?

Oh, I'm not Blackfive, not a blogger, not Canadian, not military. Just a simple engineer who worked in Iraq while you were there. :-|
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-1 # CPT Dan 2011-07-12 19:16
Mike, who are you embedding with? Surely revealing that wouldn't be an OPSEC violation? And I'd like to know what unit ok'd you to photograph inside their CP. They're as much if not more in the wrong as you are.
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# Simonferrer 2011-07-12 19:28

What's worse is when the ANA can't wait for US EOD and throw the IEDs in the back of their Ford Ranger truck. I promise you that truck doesn't Only Roll Downhill.
lol...I remember them doing that sh1t. I shouldn't laugh, but after awhile it gets a Keystone Kops air to it. The ANP are even worse. One time they 'found' an IED, dug it out, brought it to the main ANP station (where I happened to be stuck), and left it lying on the ground outside our building, having ratf**ked the wires and batteries off of it for their own projects and having sawed the device in half to make it fit in a metal bowl (what they transported it in) better. About a half hour later, they thought to report it to us and request EOD. Needless to say that made for a very interesting 9-line UXO report. For location of device, I put in "bomb next to my desk".
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# PNR 2011-07-15 13:48
I don't see it. I really don't. (Yes, I've served in theater - 2 tours.)

What of our operations, tactics, equipment, or methods did Mr. Yon reveal? That we use metal detectors and that sometimes we try to step in the bootprint of the guy in front of us. Oh, and that we don't use flashlights at night until there are casualties. This is all common knowledge.

He reported what the enemy is doing to counter us, and that we know they're doing it. If the Taliban and Al Qaeda were comprised of illiterate idiots, then maybe - MAYBE - this post wasn't such a good idea. But they aren't, and stressing about this article the way some are amounts to a serious underestimation of our enemy. That's more dangerous than anything Mr. Yon has published.
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# C-IED/IEDD Inst 2011-07-15 17:06
I can see one OPSEC issue straight away. You may wish to edit your photographs to remove the people in the background!
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+4 # Michael Yon 2011-07-15 17:21
Dear OPSEC Police,

These dispatches were read several times by military officers. Furthermore...i mportantly...I was invited to photograph without caveat. In fact, Task Force persons even helped while I photographed a laser at work. When I am invited to classified goings-on, people say they are classified and there are caveats.

The military does not need OPSEC police from the crowd to protect them. Probably two dozen generals and that many CSMs know how to contact me, and numerous often do. When they have issues, they contact me directly.


Michael Yon
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# PNR 2011-07-15 18:26
...and amen.
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-1 # CPT Dan 2011-07-15 18:55
Haha. I know Generals and people totally told me I could do stuff... Super convinced.
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+1 # thebettersmith 2011-07-15 19:25
Gump (CPT Dan) - you can't be serious...
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-1 # Cam 2011-07-15 21:43
I'm not personally trying to burn you at the stake. Although it might not violate OPSEC in Afghanistan, is it really a good thing to show? You had permission to photograph IEDs, you apparently chose to reveal the EOD tech's name, which isn't wise in this war, where the enemy is in the US and Europe and can (and do) track peoples' family down. I simply have questions about the wisdom of putting this out there for the American/Europe an audience.

This is something new for those that have not been exposed to war, the Middle East, or Afghanistan/Pak istan. It is simple technology, show a picture of it, 1 picture fully assembled, and then discuss. We don't need to have lone wolf idiots trying this in the US and Europe. Now they have a step by step guide. There's a old idiom I tend to believe fully in: "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."
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-1 # Cam 2011-07-15 21:43
As for where you're embedding, that's not OPSEC, you give your movements around the country frequently on Twitter and Facebook. All one needs to know is in Arghandab, which you already said, TF Spartan. The embedding unit is not classified unless you're embedding with an ODA.

But, I also think you're exaggerating Mr. Yon with the 'dozens of Generals and dozens of CSMs'. Boasting like that tends to make me believe otherwise. But that's just me.
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+2 # Michael Yon 2011-07-15 23:30
OPSEC clownery... EOD techs and others wear name tags and are frequently in the news all sponsored by the military. Many of the OPSEC Police try to sound relevant and knowledgeable when they are completely clueless. Cam, I hate to do this, but you have earned the Blackfive Clown award. Please recall that Jim Hansen at Blackfive accused me of being disembedded from Canadian forces for OPSEC violations. But there was a catch: I had never embedded with Canadians. And so the Blackfive Clown award was born. In closing, please enjoy the Facebook page of Task Force Spartan in which the military itself releases far more information than I have. Please make sure to visit the TF Spartan FB page and point out their OPSEC violations, and make sure to tell them about your Blackfive Clown award, and show them your OPSEC Police badge. A person has to earn it to wear it. http://www.facebook.com/TaskForceSpartan
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-1 # CPT Dan 2011-07-16 00:48
Haha. Do you get worked up when you type Yon?

Everyone is a custodian of OPSEC. That's usually in the first page of any OPSEC SOP. That said, you really need to get your narcissism checked out. If ANYBODY is publishing things along the line of this article, civilian or otherwise, it's unwise. And nobody gives a flying $h!t about Blackfive here. Stop bringing them up. It chews up your credibility. And let's not forget, you can never get that back when you lose it, right?
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-1 # Cam 2011-07-16 05:01
You know, I wasn't insulting you, but OK.

I don't know what you're talking about with regard to Jim Hansen and Blackfive, I never met the guy. They have always seemed pretty decent to me, but then so have you. That stopped about 5 minutes ago. I can only assume that Jim Hansen called you out on something and you disagreed. I'll be sure to go research it now though, I suspect I'm in good company.

What does being embedded with Canadian forces have anything to do with you teaching Americans how to build a bomb?

I'm quite familiar with TF Spartan. I've worked with them before.

The military releases a lot of information, but I know they don't have pages showing how to build IEDs. I've been to the Facebook TF Spartan page and there is no Part I: Snappers, Part II: Low Metal Content IED preparation guides for IEDs. QED

You know what to do with your Clown Award. Wear it with pride like those you bestow it on. :P
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# Jibe 2011-07-19 22:47
Minor correction - you do need to know a thing or two to build an efficient EFP and that is NOT shown on wikipedia. I guess that was the logic behind this useless talk about Iran providing Sunni insurgency with EFPs. Since it's not shown on wikipedia - it's hi-tech. But in reality there're tens of millions out there capable to do the math - you cannot stop teaching pretty all bodies of engineering for the sake of OpSec.
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+2 # RE: Low Metal ContentOld MSgt. 2012-05-23 17:37
"But in reality there're tens of millions out there capable to do the math - you cannot stop teaching pretty all bodies of engineering for the sake of OpSec."

Or chemistry, or auto mechanics, or use of basic machine tools, or woodcarving, or...military history.

ANY mildly motivated person could come up with plenty of ingenious ways to make things go "boom" without internet access and just having a primitive DIY understanding of mechanics and electronics.

Give yourself four hours, and using household resources and say a junk appliance or junk car parts, and very basic hand tools, come up with a different (but effective) pressure trigger than that shown.

Wooden mines have been around a very long time.

There are reasons the one shown isn't optimal, but I'll let readers figure that out.

Hadji carving away in his scrounge pile will have built many variants anyway. It's narcissistic to think that Americans and the internet are the fountains of all knowledge.

The Viet Cong didn't have PCs, and had pressure detonated and command-detonat ed _mine_ (make it sound "modern" and say "IED") building down to an art before most readers of this blog were born.
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# RE: Low Metal ContentOld MSgt. 2012-05-23 17:54
BTW, training munitions including very nice simulated IEDs are sold via the internet.

Should we hide that from our own civil law enforcement agencies and other first responders too?
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# Oh Boysteveinindy 2012-12-11 02:32
Where is Heywood Jabroni when you need him ! :lol:
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