Advertisement

You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Marines prepare for improvised explosives carrying WMD

Aug. 18, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
A Marine catches his breath after his armored vehicle was hit by an IED in Marjah, Afghanistan, in 2010.
A Marine catches his breath after his armored vehicle was hit by an IED in Marjah, Afghanistan, in 2010. (Thomas Brown / File)
  • Filed Under

The Marine Corps' explosives experts are enhancing their training to prepare for expected future encounters with improvised bombs carrying chemical, biological or radiological agents — so-called weapons of mass destruction.

The Marine Corps' explosives experts are enhancing their training to prepare for expected future encounters with improvised bombs carrying chemical, biological or radiological agents — so-called weapons of mass destruction.

  • Please enable JavaScript for your browser in order to use militarytimes.com.com.
Want to read more?
Current Subscribers
Access to Military Times Prime is free for current Military Times subscribers.
Log in
Haven't registered online?
Activate Account
New Subscribers
Start your subscription to Military Times Prime for as little as 59¢ a week!
Subscribe

The Marine Corps’ explosives experts are enhancing their training to prepare for expected future encounters with improvised bombs carrying chemical, biological or radiological agents — so-called weapons of mass destruction.

To date, such improvised explosives have not been a credible threat on the battlefield, especially in improvised explosive devices. In Iraq, a few failed attempts were made using industrial chemicals, but the Marine Corps considers improvised WMDs a threat that’s likely, according to a contract solicitation from the service seeking assistance in developing this new training.

Marines with 1st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company at Camp Pendleton will attend the new Weapons of Mass Destruction Design and Defeat Course in October. The goal is to improve EOD techs’ chances for survival should they encounter improvised WMD, and help deployed forces adapt to the threat.

It is a matter of time before improvised WMD are used against U.S. forces, says Steven Bucci, a foreign policy expert at the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington. Bucci, a retired Army Special Forces officer, said attempts in Iraq demonstrated the enemy’s willingness to use them. All they lack are the materials, and failing states like Syria, which possess weaponized chemical agents, could provide them.

Improvised WMD would most likely incorporate chemical agents, Bucci said. While they are difficult to manufacture and weaponize, much of the work is done if enemy forces obtain chemical weapons from an unsecured national stockpile — artillery shells, for example.

“The bad guys know how to detonate artillery shells as IEDs,” Bucci said. “They did that in Iraq and Afghanistan. If they are chemical weapon shells or warheads, then you have a potential problem. So while that has not been a particular threat in the past — other than these lame attempts in Iraq — if they can get some of these things out of Syria, the possibility of creating chemical IEDs goes way up.”

An IED incorporating biological agents is unlikely, he said, because those are sensitive to heat and would likely be destroyed in a blast. A dirty bomb, which could be constructed by adding radioactive materials from medical devices to conventional explosives, is easy to manufacture if the materials are obtained.

Hence, the presence of weaponized chemical agents in unstable nations makes that the most likely threat.

The good news, Bucci said, is that those sorts of IEDs would not be a game changer. U.S. forces are already trained to operate in a chemical environment, and the repercussions are mostly psychological. Radiation exposure can be treated. An area hit by a dirty bomb can be cleaned relatively quickly. Chemical agents would only affect people in the immediate vicinity.

“It is not good to get lots of exposure to radiation, and chemicals could kill you right away,” Bucci said.

“But in both cases, the biggest danger remains the conventional explosive part of the IED. That is more likely to kill you than the other stuff.”

More In News

Start your day with a roundup of top defense news.

VA Home Loan
Rates

Search By:

Product Options:
Zip Code:

News for your in-box

Sign up now for free Military Times E-Reports. Choose from Money and Education. Subscribers: log in for premium e-newsletters.

This Week's Army Times

This Week's Army Times

The push for pullups
Why soldiers want it added to PT test

Subscribe for Print or Digital delivery today!

Classifieds
MilitaryTimes Green Trusted Classifieds Looking to buy, sell and connect on Military Times?
Browse expanded listings across hundreds of military installations.
Faces of valorHonoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
hall of valorThe Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff.
   Last Post: garhkal
        Apr 19, 2014 3:13 PM
   Last Post: garhkal
        Apr 15, 2014 4:55 PM
   Last Post: Shaken1976
        Apr 15, 2014 5:13 PM
Handbooks

All you need to know about your military benefits.

Benefits handbook

Guard & Reserve All you need to know about the Guard & Reserve.

guard and reserve handbook