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Thread: EFPs; the new AK-47?

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    Default Expolding shrapnel using reactive metal

    Moderator's Note

    Thread closed as there is new, main thread 'IEDs: the home-made bombs that changed modern war': http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ad.php?t=16303


    This post describes a new bomb that will be used offensively and defensively. the offensive uses are obvious and their is a link to one being used to destroy an F-14. Defensively it is anticipated the material will be used to shield against incoming mortars and rockets. The post is based on a Popular Mechanics story.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-10-2012 at 03:50 PM. Reason: Add note after merger.

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    Council Member Van's Avatar
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    Default EFPs; the new AK-47?

    A thought presents itself, and I welcome criticism, discussion, rude gestures, etc. with regard to it.

    In the 1950s and 1960s, if you wanted to arm an insurgency, you brought a bunch of WW II surplus arms (Mauser '98s, M-1 Carbines, etc).
    In the 1970s and 1980s, you brought a bunch of AK-47s,
    In the 1990s, RPG-7s were the gold standard for insurgents (Somalia and Chechnya leap to mind)
    Currently in Iraq, EFPs seem to fill the role of the cheap, mass-produced, and effective weapon.

    Is this a special case or will EFPs fill this role for a while? Why?


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Explosi...med_penetrator
    http://www.abcnews.go.com/Internatio...4837262&page=1
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/12/wo...dad&ei=5087%0A
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-10-2012 at 03:50 PM. Reason: citations and references.

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    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Van View Post
    Is this a special case or will EFPs fill this role for a while? Why?
    I assume for the purpose of this discussion we are only dealing with the insurgency aimed at us versus the fighting amongst Iraqi groups. Yes, in many ways the EFP fills this role. The EFP allows the enemy to engage us with minimal conflict and effort. On the other hand, if it were not for the large amount of snipers and regular insurgents with AK-47s and RPGs, we would not need to be in the vehicles, designed to protect us, which in turn make us so vulnerable to EFPs. If we could walk around on foot more often I doubt that EFPs would be that big a deal. On the other hand, anti-personel mines would most likely fill their role. I do believe anti-personel mines qualify as "cheap, mass-produced, and effective weapon."

    Do I believe EFPs will remain in this role for a while? Yes, they are very effective and there isn't that much we can do about them except get into bigger more cumbersome vehicles.

    To sum it up I would have to say that I feel they all fit together as a package (AK-47s, RPG-7s and EFPs.) This package is what is making our situation so difficult to deal with.

    Adam L

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    Council Member Van's Avatar
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    I assume for the purpose of this discussion we are only dealing with the insurgency aimed at us versus the fighting amongst Iraqi groups.
    As an example, yes, but I'm thinking more broadly. Does it seem likely that EFPs will become as common among relatively low-tech, relatively low budget insurgents opposing technologically enabled forces, especially motorized/mechanized units like Russians in Grozny, U.S. in Iraq, or Israeli's in Lebanon. Think general case.

    Your point about EFPs as parrt of a bigger picture is well taken.

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    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    I would have to say that I believe that EFPs will become as common as any of the other mentioned weapons on the battlefield. EFPs are remarkably low-tech devices. This unfortunately means it will not be long until the skills and knowledge necessary for the construction of such devices will be all too common. It is quite frightening when you think about it. The most disturbing thing about it is that even though we are developing armor to counteract such devices, I am pessimistic that they will remain effective for very long. The ability of these devices to focus and direct the power of the charge is truly awesome and terrifying.

    Adam L

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    Default not so cheap or simplistic

    I know its assumed the ieds are cheap and often simple to make, but in the case of EFPs its really not that true.

    High quality efps are fairly expensive to make and show a good level of sifistication. In my Ao EFPs have been responsible for all most all of the casualties, but the are least plentiful type of IED you will find. The reason they acctually take a decent bit of engineering to make and quite a bit of skill to disguise effectively.

    In many efps cooper plates are milled or machine on industrial machinery. Their casings are designed and aimed to set in preformed foam blocks with lasers and telimitrey devices on cut outs in detial of CF vehicles. Many times after that they are cased in a vineer of chicken wire/concrete. They will be set often with different angles in the same casing to inflict maximal damage at critical points they have found or know to be weak on our armor. Or made to hit certian types of CF vehicles.

    The cheap ones made by the guys with little skill and in our AO (the high quality efps being made by others or those trained by a less than freindly country) are not effective or fail to go off in the designed manner or just are found becuse they are so poorly made.

    In essence, the EFP isn't a weapon that can just be made around the block it often is a very select few who can and have the right equipment. Their not cheap, I've seen the threat stream reporting and what they have paid for them and you could buy a whole hell of alot of AKs for the good ones.

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    I think the EFP is the new Stinger missile.

    The machete will be the new AK.

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    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.C. View Post
    I know its assumed the ieds are cheap and often simple to make, but in the case of EFPs its really not that true.

    High quality efps are fairly expensive to make and show a good level of sifistication. In my Ao EFPs have been responsible for all most all of the casualties, but the are least plentiful type of IED you will find. The reason they acctually take a decent bit of engineering to make and quite a bit of skill to disguise effectively.

    In many efps cooper plates are milled or machine on industrial machinery. Their casings are designed and aimed to set in preformed foam blocks with lasers and telimitrey devices on cut outs in detial of CF vehicles. Many times after that they are cased in a vineer of chicken wire/concrete. They will be set often with different angles in the same casing to inflict maximal damage at critical points they have found or know to be weak on our armor. Or made to hit certian types of CF vehicles.

    The cheap ones made by the guys with little skill and in our AO (the high quality efps being made by others or those trained by a less than freindly country) are not effective or fail to go off in the designed manner or just are found becuse they are so poorly made.

    In essence, the EFP isn't a weapon that can just be made around the block it often is a very select few who can and have the right equipment. Their not cheap, I've seen the threat stream reporting and what they have paid for them and you could buy a whole hell of alot of AKs for the good ones.
    I was not suggesting they are simple to construct in the way that a suicide vest are simple to construct, rather that they are not exactly cruise or stinger missiles. My point is that between a skilled machinist with a good set of directions (which you can find for almost anything on the net these days) will have a shot at constructing one that is effective. I get your point that they are not exactly "easy" to construct, but it is possible to do so as long as someone has the proper skills. Also, the machinery necessary is not exactly hard to come by. Any mid-sized metal lathe is capable of most of the necessary machining. I'm not sure how close the tolerances have to be for the copper in the device, but if it is hundredths of an inch, rather than thousandths, it won't be long till people starting smelting metal in microwaves and casting it. What I am trying to say is that what is necessary for the construction of these devices is nothing very special or exotic. The electronic parts you mentioned may be more difficult to come by, but are not difficult to workwith, rather delicate and complicated.

    Adam L

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    Council Member Van's Avatar
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    Shmedlap,

    The machete will be the new AK.
    Funny you shoud mention that. In a early 1960s Army study that was part of the flechette rifle program ("Spiw: The Deadliest Weapon That Never Was" by R. Blake Stevens), the guys behind the program asserted that in terms of casualties inflicted per soldier on the battle field per unit of time (I think, it's been a while), the deadliest weapon was an edged weapon with an 18 to 24 inch blade. They were a little more specific, and cited the Roman short sword. Still, you could make the case that the machete fits the same general profile.

    And then a solder arrived in my unit, who had left Rwanda with her family during their troubles ten years back...

    This bears thinking about, but back to EFPs.

    If I'm understanding it correctly, you have a carefully machined (would stamped work?) copper disk, a tube, high explosive (mach 6 projectile velocities were mentioned in one article; sounds like an RDX based explosive, SEMTEX or some such), a blasting cap, and the complicated bit that could be anything from wire and a battery to something involving a cellphone or some other electronic widget. Concealment materials added as needed and can range from improvised to sophisticated.

    At the most basic level, it seems to me that the choke points are the copper disks and blasting caps. The tolerances of that disk and the tube can't be that high, but the shape of the copper disc requires some extra knowledge.

    I'm mostly thinking out loud and trying to better understand what is being said in the media, thanks for your forebearance and sharing your expertise.

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    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    Interesting info about the machete!

    Quote Originally Posted by Van View Post
    The tolerances of that disk and the tube can't be that high, but the shape of the copper disc requires some extra knowledge.
    It won't be long till someone posts the optimal specifications online.

    Adam L

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    Interesting info about the machete!
    'Interesting', yeah, for a bunch of reasons. The lack of significant improvement in statisitical lethality from whenever it was BCE to 1960s CE. That it was that odd little sword, not a manly man's sword, but the very utilitiarian secondary arm of the legions. Candor requires that I be open about my biases, note my avatar, the best all around close combat weapon against an unarmored opponent in history, the U.S. 1850 saber. Note also that it was militarily obsolescent when it was developed; the reliable repeating handgun had been in existence for decades. And the guys who did the study were trying to drum up money for their pet project, so their numbers can't be taken at face value.

    On a more contemporary note, Shmedlap has an excellent point. The shear number of people killed with machetes in Rwanda during the troubles is staggering. Note also, that Che Guevara's coach Bayo, encouraged machete's as a 'entry-level weapon for guerrillas. Any FARC SMEs have anything more contemporary to add?

    Adam L,
    It won't be long till someone posts the optimal specifications online.
    As Cavguy's apparent hero would say "Always with the negative vibes". Yer probably right though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van View Post
    At the most basic level, it seems to me that the choke points are the copper disks and blasting caps.
    I think you are hitting on the right issue - the logistics involved. That is why I think that machete is the next AK. The mobilization of forces formerly achieved by conscription will be replaced by large numbers of oppressed/impoverished young males who get fed up, find a leader or movement, and start slitting throats. These masses will not likely have the means to field AK's for all of their angry young men and, more importantly, would not be able to sustain the inflows of ammunition necessary for the inevitable spray-and-pray method of fire that would predominate. The machete requires no training and no resupply (except maybe some sharpening stones). And for warfare that occurs due to grievances among the people, rather than disputes among politicians, the fighting will take on a more personal angle. They will not be content to fire at one another from afar. They will want to look their adversaries in the eye as they hack away.

    The EFP, while it may not be so complicated as to preclude its fabrication by non-state adversaries, seems more analogous to the Stingers that we gave the Afghanis to use against the Soviets. It was a weapon that was used sparingly, but with devastating effect, just as EFPs are. The introduction of that weapon had strategic consequences, just as the EFPs do in Iraq. And it requires a fair amount of training and planning to use both effectively.

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    Hey Van,

    Quote Originally Posted by Van View Post
    And then a solder arrived in my unit, who had left Rwanda with her family during their troubles ten years back...
    As Tom so eloquently put it, the machete is Africa's neutron bomb. And, as one of Tom's NCOs put it, the machete doesn't click on empty

    Quote Originally Posted by Van View Post
    This bears thinking about, but back to EFPs.

    If I'm understanding it correctly, you have a carefully machined (would stamped work?) copper disk, a tube, high explosive (mach 6 projectile velocities were mentioned in one article; sounds like an RDX based explosive, SEMTEX or some such), a blasting cap, and the complicated bit that could be anything from wire and a battery to something involving a cellphone or some other electronic widget. Concealment materials added as needed and can range from improvised to sophisticated.

    At the most basic level, it seems to me that the choke points are the copper disks and blasting caps. The tolerances of that disk and the tube can't be that high, but the shape of the copper disc requires some extra knowledge.
    You're right on target, very few are precisely machined shape charges. There has to be a sufficient amount of room for expansion, or the 'tube' will merely explode before the copper disk begins it's hypervelocity adventure. Using RDX-based high explosives will also result in a tube fracture. Most of our home-made shape charges use small amounts of TNT with a detonator and wooden or rubber plug. A fairly stone-age looking shape charge travels at mach 8 and penetrates up to 10 times its diameter (our 25mm shape charges go through 5 inches of solid steel with a 7 inch stand off). However, this requires an extreme amount of accuracy using a laser to aim and the target cannot be moving. By no means high tech, and most of the data used for home-made shape charges comes from the late 60s.

    Quote Originally Posted by Van View Post
    I'm mostly thinking out loud and trying to better understand what is being said in the media, thanks for your forebearance and sharing your expertise.
    There are few in the Ordnance field that would talk to a journalist...even if you paid them to do so. Conversely, I doubt there are any starving journalist with EOD backgrounds

    Regards, Stan
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    Default Van,

    Quote Originally Posted by Van View Post
    If I'm understanding it correctly, you have a carefully machined (would stamped work?) copper disk, a tube, high explosive (mach 6 projectile velocities were mentioned in one article; sounds like an RDX based explosive, SEMTEX or some such), a blasting cap, and the complicated bit that could be anything from wire and a battery to something involving a cellphone or some other electronic widget...

    At the most basic level, it seems to me that the choke points are the copper disks and blasting caps. The tolerances of that disk and the tube can't be that high, but the shape of the copper disc requires some extra knowledge.
    Most of that is important, but the real choke points are pouring the HE and getting the (military grade) detonator exactly centered. If either of those is wrong, the EFP won't form correctly - still dangerous, but not even the same ball park for effectiveness. The device container doesn't need that fine a tolerence, but the tolerance on the metal disc does. (That's all I'll say about that.)

    (See Stan's comments above. He's talking about home made, imprecise systems that have to be pretty close to be very lethal. My comments are directed to high quality EFPs - 4 to 6 km/s launch velocity, good stand off and high level of penetration.)
    Last edited by J Wolfsberger; 05-19-2008 at 06:36 PM.
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    There is a quote in a Time article by Bob Baer regarding EFP's worth sharing:
    A former CIA explosives expert who still works in Iraq told me: "The Iranians are making them. End of story." His argument is only a state is capable of manufacturing the EFP's, which involves a complicated annealing process.
    I cannot debate the veracity of it, so I don't know. Thank you Adam L. and J.C. for your insight on this matter, the migration of EFP's is something I have been wondering about, and I'm confined to public sources only.

    One question I have for ordnance guys:
    How different are EFPs seen today, compared to the device used by Badder-Meinhof (suspected) to kill the Chairman of Deutsche Bank in '89? A device which I believe was an EFP or shaped charge. In terms of technological advances, skill needed to manufacture, sophistication...

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Hey Bourbon !

    Quote Originally Posted by bourbon View Post
    There is a quote in a Time article by Bob Baer regarding EFP's worth sharing:

    I cannot debate the veracity of it, so I don't know. Thank you Adam L. and J.C. for your insight on this matter, the migration of EFP's is something I have been wondering about, and I'm confined to public sources only.
    Back here in the former East Bloc, we'd call it little more than a game of cat and mouse. However, we outnumber the criminals (well, we feel certain we do), and, we gather them up one at a time. This is not a combat zone, and the criminals do not have free access to sufficient explosives. Trying to figure out what the IEDs are intended for here is difficult (vs Iraq and Afghanistan), so we concentrate on where the raw materials are most likely to come from, and what or who is the likely client, and follow leads in conjunction with LE.

    Quote Originally Posted by bourbon View Post
    One question I have for ordnance guys:
    How different are EFPs seen today, compared to the device used by Badder-Meinhof (suspected) to kill the Chairman of Deutsche Bank in '89? A device which I believe was an EFP or shaped charge. In terms of technological advances, skill needed to manufacture, sophistication...
    If you mean the infrared trigger device used to kill Alfred Herrhausen, then nothing new in this part of the world. We've seen far more complicated devices assembled by disgruntled security personnel as early as 1987 and as late as 1991. Ours were in apartment buildings bringing down 7 stories with no apparent target nor advanced warning or threat.

    You barely need 9 VDC even for most crude detonators from WWII. How you get the juice to the detonator is little more than reading the owners manual from a remote controlled car to a home security system.

    BTW, we don't really care what color the wires are when employing a water canon
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stan View Post
    There has to be a sufficient amount of room for expansion, or the 'tube' will merely explode before the copper disk begins it's hypervelocity adventure.
    I was wondering if there's a reason they can't be portable and hand held: expansion, holding the disk on prevents the proper formation, the amount of explosive used creates too much heat/shockwaves/whatever.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
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    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    I think you are hitting on the right issue - the logistics involved. That is why I think that machete is the next AK. The mobilization of forces formerly achieved by conscription will be replaced by large numbers of oppressed/impoverished young males who get fed up, find a leader or movement, and start slitting throats. These masses will not likely have the means to field AK's for all of their angry young men and, more importantly, would not be able to sustain the inflows of ammunition necessary for the inevitable spray-and-pray method of fire that would predominate. The machete requires no training and no resupply (except maybe some sharpening stones). And for warfare that occurs due to grievances among the people, rather than disputes among politicians, the fighting will take on a more personal angle. They will not be content to fire at one another from afar. They will want to look their adversaries in the eye as they hack away.

    In theory I agree with you. On the other hand, what is this mob going to do when they run into a smaller force with automatic weapons? Will they have the discipline or rage to take the mass casualties before they are in the thick of fighting and unable to flee forcing all to stay in the fight? In the end the question is will the AK-47 be the greater weapon of terror? All that the AK-47 needs to do is terrify enough people in an opposing group to break their “group think” (Forgive me for using this term. It is the best term I could come up with at the time) and in so doing pacify them.


    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    The EFP, while it may not be so complicated as to preclude its fabrication by non-state adversaries, seems more analogous to the Stingers that we gave the Afghanis to use against the Soviets. It was a weapon that was used sparingly, but with devastating effect, just as EFPs are. The introduction of that weapon had strategic consequences, just as the EFPs do in Iraq. And it requires a fair amount of training and planning to use both effectively.
    Good point.

    Quote Originally Posted by bourbon View Post
    There is a quote in a Time article by Bob Baer regarding EFP
    Although I see how heat treating the copper could be important, I'm skeptical of how important, let alone difficult, this really is. I'm not claiming its misinformation, but I want to know how much of a difference heat treatment would actually make. This seems to be more along the lines of whether a “nation” is necessary to construct the most refined form of EFP (as opposed to an “effective” one) to which the answer is “yes.” What is important to realize is that sadly insurgents don't need the devices to be that powerful. Most of our vehicles are not that well armored.

    Adam L
    Last edited by Adam L; 05-19-2008 at 11:24 PM.

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    Council Member Van's Avatar
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    I was wondering if there's a reason they can't be portable and hand held:
    Mf x Vf = Mp x Vp That is, Mass of the firer times Velocity of the firer equals Mass of the projectile time velocity of the projectile. (Sorry, proper subscripts are beyond my ability) Velocity is a vector, not scalar motion (that means it has a specific direction).

    Hypothetically, a 4 ounce copper slug accelerating to say 6000 feet per second in a four hundredths of a second (and I'm being sloppy for ease of calculation) will...

    Oh the heck with the numbers, this is like the weight of three .50 M2 bullets being pushed to more than twice the velocity of a .50 bullet. We're talking 25mm derringer here, but with a much higher muzzle velocity. Even if you could figure out a way to make this a cannon rather than an aimed bomb, the recoil would tear your shoulder off and probably cause all sorts of novel trauma. As it is, this is a bomb with a well focused directional effect. (or at least so far as I understand the physics of the Misznay-Schardin effect.)

    RA, you bring up a good point, but EFPs are apparently at the very limit of improvised projectile weapons as it is. Of couse, some smart boy will come along and start pushing on that limit

    Adam L,
    Although I see how heat treating the copper could be important, I'm skeptical of how important,
    I think you're on the right lines, you've got to anneal the copper, but the quality control on the process is the difference between servicable and optimum (like the difference between an early Russian AK-47 and a Finnish Valmet; same general design, worlds apart in performance).
    Last edited by Van; 05-19-2008 at 11:41 PM.

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    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Van View Post
    Adam L, I think you're on the right lines, you've got to anneal the copper, but the quality control on the process is the difference between servicable and optimum (like the difference between an early Russian AK-47 and a Finnish Valmet; same general design, worlds apart in performance).
    You're right, quality control is the name of the game. I have to wonder what types of heat treatment are being used that are so complex that only a "nation" would have the resources. I've read about people (as well as met a few) who have done some pretty amazing things with heat treatment with very little. Again, the hard part is quality control.

    Adam L

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