Michael's Dispatches

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. 

Say something here...
You are a guest ( Sign Up ? )
or post as a guest
Loading comment... The comment will be refreshed after 00:00.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jibe · 9 years ago
    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.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Old MSgt. · 9 years ago
    "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-detonated _mine_ (make it sound "modern" and say "IED") building down to an art before most readers of this blog were born.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Old MSgt. · 9 years ago
    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?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    steveinindy · 8 years ago
    Where is Heywood Jabroni when you need him ! :lol:
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Margherita · 2 years ago
    This article will help the internet viewers for creating new webpage or even a weblog from start to end.

    Feel free to surf to my webpage; Common Projects: http://baystatesavingsonline.net/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=scubaphoto.Latoniccia.fr%2Fpicture.php% F%2F42 %2Flist%2F2158%2C 1 4%2C51 %2C2597%2C42 %2C148%2C1441%2C 042%2C2471%2C2055%2C 910%2C114 %2C4417%2C1092%2C 22%26comments_order% DDESC

Reader support is crucial to this mission. Weekly or monthly recurring ‘subscription’ based support is the best, though all are greatly appreciated.  Many methods are available to keep the work rolling. Click the image for a more info.



Quick Link to Paypal

Recurring Donation

QR Code

QR Code


To support using Venmo, send to:


My BitCoin QR Code

Use the QR code for BitCoin apps:


Or click the link below to help support the next dispatch with bitcoins: