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S&T Testing Aims to Mitigate Threat from Vehicle IEDs

In July 2016, a refrigerator truck packed with explosives detonated next to a crowded apartment block in Baghdad’s Karrada neighborhood. The blast killed 323 people and was one of the worst Vehicle–Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) attacks ever recorded.More recently, on May 30, 2017, a VBIED—otherwise known as a car bomb—in a tanker truck ripped through the embassy quarter of Kabul, killing more than 150 people. Several embassies, including those of Germany and France, sustained damage despite the presence of blast protection structures.

Detonation of an explosionMore recently, on May 30, 2017, a VBIED—otherwise known as a car bomb—in a tanker truck ripped through the embassy quarter of Kabul, killing more than 150 people. Several embassies, including those of Germany and France, sustained damage despite the presence of blast protection structures.

Even though several massive Vehicle–Borne Improvised Explosive Device (aka car bombs) have been thwarted in recent years by local security forces throughout hotspots in the Middle East and Asia, these devices continue to pose a real and evolving threat to even the most secure compounds. But S&T’s Explosives Division (EXD) is addressing this threat directly through research and testing. Large-Scale VBIED test at Fort Polk

EXD’s Homemade Explosives (HME) program conducts Large–Scale VBIED testing to mitigate the threat posed by massive car bombs and to ensure such attacks do not occur in the United States. This program is part of S&T’s Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Recently, S&T EXD conducted a series of explosives tests to learn more about mitigating these threats based on the size and composition of the explosive device. These large-scale explosives tests, conducted at Fort Polk, Louisiana, brought together the HME preparation expertise of the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Indian Head facility and the live fire testing capability of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineering, Research and Development Center (ERDC) in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

“Due to the wide variety of types of and materials used to make improvised explosives, we often must use simulations to model the behavior of large scale events,” HME Deputy Program Manager Dave Hernandez said. “When current methods are no longer effective, we have to conduct controlled real-life events to discover new ways of combatting emerging trends in explosives.”

The data from the Fort Polk tests show the damage that different types of HME mixes can inflict. Such information on large-scale detonations could not be accurately calculated before these tests were conducted and will facilitate the development of new mitigation techniques for larger-scale explosions.Phtest vehicle shows post-detonation damageoto left, test vehicle shows post-detonation damage.

“The information generated from this testing will aid the Department of Defense and law enforcement communities by revealing data on the impact of a large–scale VBIED; enabling better protection for vulnerable targets,” HME Program Manager Elizabeth Obregon said. “As the HME threat is constantly changing, a continued effort in this area is required in order to provide timely information to those organizations conducting analysis and acquisitions.”

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