Counter RCIED Systems

Counter RCIED Systems


The technological sophistication of present day RCIEDs render their detection an extremely difficult proposition, thus making them a lucrative weapon for terrorists, and a nightmare for security agencies

Counter RCIED systems

An Improvised Explosive Device (IED) is a bomb fabricated in an improvised manner incorporating destructive, lethal, noxious, pyrotechnic or incendiary chemicals and designed to destroy or incapacitate personnel or vehicles. IEDs may be used in terrorist actions or in unconventional asymmetrical warfare by guerrillas or commando forces in a theatre of operations. They are triggered by various methods, including remote control, infra-red or magnetic triggers, pressure-sensitive bars or trip wires. In some cases, multiple IEDs are wired together in a daisy-chain, to attack a convoy of vehicles spread out along a road.
Latest IEDs are no longer made by inexperienced designers or with sub-standard materials. They have developed into sophisticated devices The technological sophistication of present day RCIEDs render their detection an extremely difficult proposition, thus making them a lucrative weapon for terrorists, and a nightmare for security agencies that are constructed with components scavenged from conventional munitions and standard consumer electronic components such as mobile phones, washing machine timers, pagers or garage door openers. Anti National Elements (ANEs) have surely but steadily graduated from a disorganised group of dissidents employing primitive and crude weapons of destruction to a more organised group using highly sophisticated and lethal IEDs. The levels of technological sophistication of present day IEDs render their detection, let alone their neutralising and/or pre-detonation, an extremely difficult proposition.

Classification of IEDs
The IEDs can be broadly classified based on:
Type of IED Delivery System: IEDs are classified based on the containers in which they are kept:

  • Vehicle Borne (VBIED)
  • Person Borne (PVIED)
  • Passive — land mine types
  • Directional — projected devices, missiles, rockets
  • Placed

Type of IED Initiation Mode: These are determined by the technique used for initiation. While all other types of IEDs have to be countered by means of physical probing to detect, the remotely initiated type, commonly termed as Radio/ Remote Controlled IED (RCIED), can be countered using electronic equipment that has the capability to either jam, neutralise or pre-initiate them without the need of detecting their location. The IEDs based on mode of initiation could be classified as under:

  • Timed
  • Chemical Delay
  • Timers
  • Light Actuated
  • Command Initiated
  • Suicide
  • Command Wired
  • Passive/ Active Infra Red(IR)
  • Projectile Controlled (PCIED)
  • Victim Operated (VOIED)
  • Booby Traps
  • Pressure Pads/ Pull Switches

RCIEDs Techniques
RCIEDs are an effective strategy when facing a superior or technologically advanced military force. Since RCIED is relatively simple to make, easily hidden and very destructive, it has become a preferred weapon of insurgents, guerrilla fighters, rebels and terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, North Ireland, Vietnam, Chechnya, India, Libya and Syria. Most common RCIED techniques used around the world are:-
• Two Way Radios/ Personal Mobile Radios (PMRs): Two-way radios are a common method of command initiation incorporated in IEDs utilising unsecured/ uncontrolled radios in citizen band.
• Long Range Cordless Telephones: ANEs use the handset or base station of cordless telephones and long range cordless telephones as an IED switch near the main charge.
• Mobile/ Cell Phones: Due to the presence of developed cell phone structures around the world, cell phone- initiated IEDs have become ideal to be used by ANEs; and as the cell phone network expands, so will the use of this type of initiator.
• ANEs are also utilising the following electronic systems because of the ease with which these can be purchased and modified to suit their requirements:-

• Wireless Doorbells
• Keyless Entry Systems
• Car Alarms
• Radio Controlled Toys

Personal mobile radios

Global IED Threats
Over the last decade, IED attacks have been on the rise globally. Casualties due to these attacks accounted for 53 per cent during the period February-July 2013. More than 53,000 civilians were killed or injured by IEDs between 2 011 and 2013. The epicentres of IED attacks have primarily been in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and India, with some sporadic incidents in Africa and USA. IED attacks in Iraq alone resulted in deaths of over 1,600 coalition personnel. Some of the recent IED incidents that occurred around the globe are: –

• Two killed and 19 injured by IED blast near an Assam Rifles camp in Imphal, India, on May 30, 2014
• One Indian army soldier killed and two injured by an explosion in Akhnoor area of Jammu district in India on May 19, 2014
• A suicide car bomber killed 10 and injured 25 in Shite town of Hermel in Lebanon on February 21, 2014.
• Serial blasts of six IEDs killed five and injured many in Patna, India, using a Delay Timer Circuit on October 27, 2013
• Explosion in Baluchistan’s Awaran district on October 2, 2013, led to the death of two soldiers, and injured four
• Four Afghan National Army soldiers killed by an IED explosion in Nawa district, Afghanistan on October 2, 2013
• One Afghan Army soldier and two civilians were wounded in an IED attack in western province of Herat, Afghanistan on October 1, 2013
• A Maj Gen and a Lt Col were killed by a remote-controlled IED planted along the road at Pak-Afghan border on September 15, 2013
• Eight people were killed and 13 injured in a powerful IED blast in Imphal, India on September 14, 2013
• In marathon attack at Boston, US, three people were killed and 176 injured when a pressure cooker bomb exploded on April 15, 2013

Bombing Trends World Wide

bombing trends worldwide
Credit: National Security Guard-The Bombshell

Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) Counter IED Equipments
To counter the IED threat, a vast array of counter IED equipments is available commercially. Summary of COTS Counter RCIED equipments are as under:-
• Equipment available commercially are primarily jammers
• Types vary from man-portable to vehicle based counter IED systems
• Covers entire frequency spectrum of 20 MHz to 3000 MHz, thereby incorporating citizen band frequencies and the entire spectrum of mobile phones
• Smart jamming options of barrage jamming or selective jamming (spot/ responsive)
• Interoperability possible so as to build a security umbrella
• Ranges vary, depending on output wattage and employment conditions, although no manufacturer has defined any range
Inferences: Inferences that are drawn on analysing the global threat of IEDs and commercially available equipments are:
• IED remains the most potent weapon for an asymmetrically operating enemy
• There is a gradual spread of IED incidents across the globe. Person borne (SPIED)/ Vehicle borne, suicide type initiated IEDs remain a preferred mode of attack since they are more difficult to detect and counter
• While IED designers have shifted to retrograde techniques employing manual/ electrical or timer- based IEDs due to its difficulty in countering incidents, remote controlled based IEDs are still prevalent
• With a vast array of availability of electronic components and advancement in the field of communications, the remotely initiated IEDs can be countered by jamming only. Therefore, manufacturers across the global are designing jammers with smart options
• India ranks fourth among the most IED attacked nations in the world and sixth in terms of deaths caused by IEDs (NCTC, USA report on terrorism 2011)

IED Threat: J&K, India
In J&K, ANEs began using IEDs in late 1980s when insurgency was at its peak. IEDs remain the most potent weapon, which are inexpensive, easy to build using commercial technology, easy to replace with components readily available, without the need for lengthy procurement process, yet being precise and lethal with little risk. The insurgents could attain success by inflicting heavy casualties, demoralise local population and create an unstable security situation in the state.

The initial IEDs were primarily employing mechanical/ electrical techniques to initiate the blast and subsequently graduating to designs employing timer delays and light actuated circuits. Early 2000 saw more complex although commercially available RCIED circuits to initiate the explosive and attack the target. The Remote Circuits were initially two-digit RC initiated circuits, which were subsequently upgraded to three digit resettable type of RCIEDs. There have also been reported incidents of cell phone-initiated IEDs. The army bus blast at Khanabal in 2006 was the first time when a mobile initiated blast was noticed.

The block scheme of a typical RCIED will consist of a handheld, commercially available transmitter, a matching receiver usually buried/concealed and an explosive pack which is electrically wired to the receiver. The receiver is a hardwired electronic device operating in the frequency range of handheld transmitters.

J&K Typical RCIED Setup
The most common RCIED used by ANEs, typical to J&K, is a transmitter and a receiver combination, operating in Citizen Band. These RCIEDs are characterised by three unknown (to the victim) factors viz frequency of operation, Dual Tone Multi Frequency (DTMF) codes and its exact location. Any receiver can be tuned within a bandwidth of 10 KHz, hence there can be as many as 4,000 frequencies which are possible in the bandwidth of 135 to 175 MHz. Considering two-digit DTMF codes, a combination of 72 possible codes can be used. Similarly, 504 such codes are possible for a three digit RCIED.

skyshield radar guns
Credit: Northrop Gruman

Countering RCIEDs
Counter RCIED equipment must have the following essential features for it to be effective:-
• Must have sufficient radius of influence. This feature will ensure that knowledge of exact location of the IED is no longer important.
• The equipment must be capable of generating all frequencies in the citizen band.
• For jamming of RCIED, sufficient high radiated power is desired so as to create a ‘barrage’ effect.
• For pre-detonation or neutralisation of the RCIED, the counter IED equipment must be capable of generating all possible DTMF codes and super-impose these codes on all possible transmitted frequencies. The above actions must be accomplished in a minimum possible time so as to make the counter RCIED tactically viable.

Types of Counter RCIED System: The three major categories are:-
Jammers: If the frequency of threat signal is known, then it can be jammed with spot frequency. Less barrage jamming, that is, generating high power signal across entire range of frequencies will be resorted to. This necessitates very high power transmission {for example, to jam a citizen band of 40 MHz, (that is, from 135 to 175 MHz) with a step of 10KHz, number of emissions will be 4000. Power of 5W per transmission thus will demand 5W x 4000 channels = 20,000 W = 20 KW}. This kind of power is very difficult to generate. Hence, sweep noise generation technique is adapted.
Neutralisers: Used primarily to disable the IEDs so as to avoid collateral damage in populated areas, moving convoys, etc. They quickly transmit a set of codes required to reset the IEDs in shortest possible time (typically 2-3 seconds).
Pre-initiators: These equipments transmit all possible random DTMF codes in the entire frequency spectrum so as to pre-initiate the IEDs at the time of our choosing.
They are of two types:-

• Static Long Range Pre-initiators: They are based on multiple radios transmitting the complete spectrum and DTMF codes over a long range (typically 16-20 km). Being line-ofsight equipment, they require the dead zones to be covered by other mobile counter RCIED systems. Further, they have long scan time of around 3 to 4 hours.
• Mobile Short Range Pre-Initiators: They cover the small stretch- es of dead zones, especially in mountainous terrain. They have a range of 1-2 km and use software and hardware for generation of frequency, using high power amplifier and antenna. Generally, the cycle time of these equipments is around 30-40 minutes.  Deployment Grid: The deployment grid of counter RCIED equipment is based on area mapping by identifying dead grounds and blind spots on the area where security umbrella has to be established.
• Long Range Pre-Initiator (LRPI): These are long range static pre-initiators, deployed on dominating heights to cover larger area where RCIED sanitisation is required. Effective range varies depending on limiting factors like condition of equipment, availability of line of sight transmission and various factors affecting diffraction, reflection, absorption, etc.
• Medium Range Pre-initiation/ Neutraliser/ Jammer: These are vehicle based/ static medium range pre-initiatiors/ neutralisers/ jammers with typical range of 1-2 kms so as to cover the dead ground and blind spots, that remain uncovered by the LRPI.
• Convoy Protection/ Counter Insurgency (CI)/ Counter Terrorism (CT) Operations: During convoy movement, road opening or conduct of CI/ CT operations, counter RCIED equipment used are vehicle based/ man portable pre-initiator/ neutraliser/ jammers.
Inferences: Following inferences can be drawn on the evolution of IED attacks over the last two decades: –
• A sine curve in the methodology and technology employed in initiating the IEDs.
• Initial period, that is, late 1999 saw IEDs employing rudimentary techniques of mechanical/ electrical initiation
• In mid 2000, technology of IED designs became complex, based on the increased availability of alternate means of commercially available circuits, thereby graduating to two/ three digit RCIEDs and mobile initiated IEDs
• In late 2000, there was a dip in utilisation of remote controlled IEDs primarily due to influx in counter RCIED equipment
• At present, there is a likelihood of ANEs shifting their attack methodology back to either rudimentary methods, viz mechanical/ electrical initiated IED, suicide attack or developing IED technology exploiting frequency in 3G, 4G, WiFi, WiMax for which detection and counter are very difficult
• Recent sporadic IED incidents and recovery of IED material indicate that this threat is still prevalent.

US Navy mine defusing

IEDs have emerged as the threat weapon of choice and are one of the greatest challenges armed forces are facing in the current theatres of operation. The ubiquitous nature and lethal effect of IEDs used by insurgents directly threaten deployed forces’ freedom of manoeuvre and the ability of governments to provide for the safety and security of their people. These cost-effective, adaptive weapons and the violent extremist organisations that use them are sure to evolve over time. There is no single solution to defeat the IED because there is no single enemy IED network. A wide range of efforts to neutralise threat networks and devices are required.

The IED threat must be met with a coherent and focussed approach that collaboratively and continually seeks effective solutions. It is the synergy of rapid acquisition and fielding, operations and intelligence fusion and analy¬sis, training, weapons technical intelligence, and a whole-of-government approach that is coupled with a single focus on the IED threat, which will ensure our ability to meet the operational requirements. To defeat the threat, we must continually identify the likely capability gaps and focus our supporting communities of interest to develop solutions. Leveraging the research and development community in this endeavour ensures innovation that addresses these future challenges and provides a venue to discover and develop counter IED related technology.