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Posted: 2/12/2006 7:54:22 AM EST
I don't know why the Pentagon is holding this gizmo up, but I suspect there is more than meets the news reporter's eye.

From the Los Angeles Times
Bomb Buster for Iraq Hits Pentagon Snag
Army brass says a device that destroyed 90% of roadside explosives in tests needs further study. Marine Corps decides to bypass the bureaucracy.
By Mark Mazzetti
Times Staff Writer

February 12, 2006

WASHINGTON — A new high-tech vehicle that destroys roadside bombs has passed a series of U.S. military tests but has not yet been sent into battle, prompting charges that Pentagon bureaucracy is slowing the effort to protect American troops in Iraq.

Last April, Army Brig. Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of a Pentagon task force in charge of finding ways to combat the makeshift bombs known as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, endorsed development of the vehicle, called the Joint IED Neutralizer. The remote-controlled device blows up roadside bombs with a directed electrical charge, and based on Votel's assessment, then-deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz recommended investing $30 million in research and sending prototypes to Iraq for testing.

But 10 months later — and after a prototype destroyed about 90% of the IEDs laid in its path during a battery of tests — not a single JIN has been shipped to Iraq.

To many in the military, the delay in deploying the vehicles, which resemble souped-up, armor-plated golf carts, is a case study in the Pentagon's inability to bypass cumbersome peacetime procedures to meet the urgent demands of troops in the field. More than half of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq have been caused by roadside bombs, and the number of such attacks nearly doubled last year compared with 2004.

The Pentagon has identified the improvised bomb problem as one of its top priorities. Two years ago, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, Gen. John P. Abizaid, called for a "Manhattan Project" to cut down on roadside bombing casualties, but many believe that his level of concern has not been matched in Washington.

"There's a bureaucracy that really slows things down, and sometimes people don't have the same sense of urgency," said one officer involved in the effort to counter the bombs. "That's where my frustration comes in."

The officer declined to be identified for this article because he feared retribution from superiors.

The Defense Department under Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has faced similar charges of failing to act quickly to protect troops in combat. Dissatisfaction with the Pentagon's overall response to the IED threat in Iraq follows complaints about the military's failure to provide sufficient body armor and adequate armor for transport vehicles.

A JIN prototype was tested extensively in mid-September at the Army's Yuma Proving Grounds in the Arizona desert, destroying most of the roadside bombs put in its way. But the Pentagon's IED task force said that the device required further testing, and that a decision to delay deployment had been made jointly by Pentagon officials and commanders in Iraq.

"The decision has been made that it's not yet mature enough," said Army Brig. Gen. Dan Allyn, deputy director of the task force, which was recently renamed the Joint IED Defeat Organization. Iraq is "not the place to be testing unproven technology."

But the Marine Corps believes otherwise and recently decided to circumvent the testing schedule and send JIN units to Al Anbar province in western Iraq. Marines have been deployed in the restive area, home to the cities of Fallouja and Ramadi, since February 2004.

The Marines are now making final preparations to deploy a number of JIN prototypes to Al Anbar. Based on their performance, Marine commanders said, they hope the device can eventually be used throughout Iraq.

The Joint IED Neutralizer, built by a private contractor in Arizona, can be driven in front of a military convoy or operated separately to clear roadways of homemade bombs. The vehicle has a remote-control console that troops can use from a safe distance, directing it like a radio-controlled car.

A metal boom that extends from the vehicle's chassis emits high-powered electric pulses — military officials call it "man-made lightning" — that set off the detonators on the bombs. The JIN is a spinoff technology of a larger U.S. government effort to develop energy-based weapons that include lasers, electric shocks and microwaves.

Pentagon officials and defense experts agree there is no technological "silver bullet" for the IED problem in Iraq. Insurgents continue to build bigger, more powerful bombs, and have managed to carry out successful attacks against U.S. and Iraqi troops even as the military develops new ways to counter them.

Although nobody in the military believes that deploying JIN vehicles to Iraq will eliminate the roadside bomb threat, many consider it among the most promising technologies yet developed, and question what they believe is a slow deployment schedule set by Army leaders in charge of the IED task force.

"The Army isn't saying no to this. They are just saying yes very, very slowly, and it's a tragedy," said a former senior Pentagon official who was involved in the development of the JIN last year and who requested anonymity because he feared that revealing his identity might endanger the future of the program.

The task force has been credited with developing various strategies to combat the IED threat, such as changing military tactics and equipping troops with electronic jammers that prevent insurgents from detonating the makeshift bombs.

All this, top Pentagon officials say, has already reduced the threat of roadside bombs in Iraq.

"Between the increase in armor and the changes in tactics, techniques and procedures that we've employed, the number of attacks … that have been effective has gone down, and the number of casualties per effective attack has gone down," Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in November.

But, partly as a result of continuing complaints from commanders in the field, a month later the Pentagon moved to expand the authority and the scope of the task force. Critics had argued that under Votel, a one-star general, the task force did not have enough influence to push other government agencies such as the CIA, FBI and Energy Department to commit personnel and resources to the effort.

Consequently, the Pentagon announced in December that retired four-star Army Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs would assume control of an expanded task force that might ultimately number more than 350 people. The Pentagon also plans to triple the organization's budget to approximately $3.5 billion per year.

The Joint IED Neutralizer first came to the attention of senior Pentagon leaders last spring, after Votel returned from a demonstration of an early version and wrote an e-mail message to his staff. In the message, he called the JIN a "highly innovative system" that should be tested and prepared for "rapid insertion into the theater."

Shortly afterward, on April 30, then-Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz wrote a memo about the JIN that went to Pace, then the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with Gen. Richard A. Cody, the vice chief of staff of the Army, and to the Pentagon's top civilian official in charge of weapons acquisition.

Wolfowitz's memo said the JIN had the potential to "dramatically alter the balance of power on IEDs," and recommended that the Pentagon immediately invest $30 million in the system to ramp up production and begin testing in Iraq.

Yet to date, only about a dozen JIN units have been produced. Officials at the company that makes the vehicle, Tucson-based Ionatron Inc., say they can currently build 17 JIN vehicles per month, but with the Pentagon's approval could quickly increase production to about 50 per month.

The company, which is publicly traded, has other contracts with the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies to develop energy-based weapons.

At a cost of about $200,000 per unit, the JIN is far cheaper than most military vehicles, and is designed to be expendable. Although clad with armor to withstand bullets from an AK-47, the vehicle could be damaged or destroyed while detonating a large roadside bomb. However, it is designed to destroy bombs from a distance, a feature that should allow it to be used multiple times.

Officials on the IED task force said they were apprehensive about deploying new technology to Iraq before it had been thoroughly tested. Allyn, the task force deputy director, said that in the past the Pentagon had made the mistake of sending technology to combat zones too early.

"It puts the burden on people who have a mission to perform and puts them at risk," Allyn said.

Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times

partners: KTLA Hoy
Link Posted: 2/12/2006 8:36:41 AM EST
One look at the video at their site will show why it hasn't been deployed in any big way (see www.ionatron.net/default.aspx?id=105.

Assuming (an important word that, "assuming") that the "deployable" version looks anything like the thing in the video then it has rather narrow application. If those were 155's the thing would have been destroyed right away. It can't keep up with even moderate convoy speeds. It only covers a narrow swath. And how do you clear an urban path so it can operate without resulting in "non-combatant" casualties? How do you handle daisy chains? What if the cap is at the end of 20, 30, hell pick a number feet of det cord/shock tube whatever out of the path of the thing?

Now, hook up an LIPC gun to one of those new MIT carbon nanotube ultracap's and, dayum, plasma rifles in the 40W range

Link Posted: 2/14/2006 9:53:38 AM EST
aa777888-2: Thanks for the insight and link, I've taken the liberty to pass on your comments to the author Mark Mazzetti who is the Pentagon correspendant and Letters to the Editor for the L.A. Times. There is more to this story than meets the eye, and it is not as simple as a few column-inches of newsprint.
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