The Hurt Locker
the threat of
devices is our
current highest priority.
Centre, BAE Systems,
ARMED FORCES have uncovered a powerful
secret weapon in the war on improvised explosive
devices (IEDs): private-sector partnerships.
Relying on simple remote triggers, IEDs can
be crafted out of anything from nails and glass to
chemicals and fertilizer. They might be lacking in
sophistication, but they have proven to be a formidable foe. Last year in Afghanistan alone the U.S.
Department of Defense reports there were 8,159
IED incidents—a dramatic spike from 2,677 in
2007. The explosives killed 322 coalition soldiers
and wounded 1,813, compared to 183 killed
and 790 wounded the year prior, according to
Pentagon figures. The crude but deadly weapons
are the number-one killer of NATO-led troops and
are blamed for up to 90 percent of U.S. casualties.
Such grave statistics have provoked a sense of
urgency around projects aimed at detecting and
disarming the devices. That’s driving military
forces and private-sector organizations to develop
close partnerships aimed at bringing the best
experience, technology and resources to the effort.
“Countering the threat of improvised explosive
devices is our scientists’ current highest priority,”
says James Baker, director of the Advanced
Technology Centre at defense giant BAE Systems,
Farnborough, Hampshire, England.
Joining forces with the U.K. Ministry of
Defence, the company worked alongside soldiers
to test a new vehicle-mounted system aimed at
detecting hidden explosives.
Such boundary-crossing relationships let project
teams tweak designs for field applications, fast-track
timelines and deliver revolutionary solutions that
could save thousands of lives. Even more importantly, the new alliances could transform the way
the military and the private sector handle projects.
FROM THE TRENCHES
Dynamic Defense Materials LLC already had the
idea for a snap-together, portable armored structure to protect soldiers against IEDs. But several
months after the project launched in 2007, the
research and development company brought in Joe