When U.S. Army Capt. Christopher Sullivan was killed last week by a handmade bomb, it was a tragedy for his family -- and a tragically ordinary event for the American military. Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, have been responsible for hundreds of American casualties in Iraq. And so far, there doesn't appear to be any reliable way of stopping them.The Pentagon, scrambling for answers, is in the middle of a frantic search for high-tech methods to find and neutralize the jury-rigged weapons.Microwave blasts, radio-frequency jammers and chemical sensors are among the methods being explored and deployed in this largely secret effort.But, because IEDs are cobbled together from "whatever the people that plant them can find," warned Cliff Anderson, a program manager at the Office of Naval Research, "there is no magic bullet" that will suddenly end the IED threat...Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a Washington-area think tank, believes, the most effective IED countermeasure might be a pulse of electromagnetic energy that can "fry the circuits of these bombs."Researchers at the Naval Surface Warfare Center's Dahlgren Laboratory in Virginia are working on such a solution, called NIRF, short for Neutralizing Improvised Explosive Devices with RF. The device, according to a source familiar with the project, "produces a very high-frequency field, in the microwave range, at very short range" to take out an IED's electronics. The Pentagon hopes to deploy NIRF in Iraq later this year.My article in today's Wired News has details.THERE'S MORE: The L.A. Times has a dynamite story today from Al-Ramadi, Iraq, on the dangers facing American convoys there.
As he always does before traveling the roadways of Iraq, Marine Staff Sgt. Johnathan Radel on Tuesday said a short prayer."Lord, please keep us safe today from IEDs and VBIEDS," he said as he sat in his Humvee, using the initials for improvised explosive devices and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices.Less than five minutes later, as the eight-vehicle convoy rolled through the streets of Ramadi in the predawn darkness, an IED exploded beneath one of the Humvees, sending an orange fireball into the sky and shredding the vehicle's back tires.AND MORE: How does the Army's 3rd Corps Support Command say you should handle IEDs? Read this briefing to find out.