Improvised explosives biggest threat to the front line

Photo: Tech. Sgt. Michele A. Desrochers

New types of lightweight robot vehicle such as the Dragon Runner are being deployed to help assess and deal with improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Critics say that there are still too few of these robots in Afghanistan so the defusing of the devices is often left to the highly trained men and women which places them at unnecessary risk.

The biggest threat facing British armed forces serving in Afghanistan is not high-tech, expensive weapons but cheap, easily manufactured IEDs. These makeshift bombs are usually made from wood or metal and can be manufactured for as little as £65. Each incident could involve multiple devices designed to catch the bomb disposal experts off guard.

The elite army bomb disposal unit, 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, is made up of the only people  in the British army trained to deal with high threat IEDs. They go  through a vigorous training programme of more than 200 exams.

However, only a few are chosen to join this group and even then the course for dealing with high-threat IEDs has a 50 per cent failure rate.

The army is facing thousands of IEDs every month which is much higher than seen in both Iraq and Northern Ireland.