U.S. Marines test solution to roadside bombs

Friday, September 10, 2004

BAGHDAD The U.S. Marine Corps may have what could be a low-technology solution to roadside bombs planted by insurgents in Iraq.

The 1st Marine Division has examined the use of the M-79 grenade launcher to neutralize improvised explosive devices, the military's name for roadside bombs. The method calls for a soldier to fire the M-79 introduced into the military in 1961 toward the suspected IED, which would create sufficient vibrations to detonate the roadside bomb.

"The idea for countering the IEDs has been around," CWO Charles Colleton, a gunner for 1st Marine Division, told MIddle East Newsline. "But the problem has been coming up with the correct system. Using a weapon system to detonate mines has been around. We're just finding out if this works."

The Marine solution was reported amid development of a range of advanced technologies meant to detect and neutralize IEDs. The technologies included the use of electronic jammers to either detonate or block signals. The method has failed with IEDs that are detonated by wire.

"It takes shock to create shock," Colleton said of the M-79. "We have to get the explosion close enough to set it off. We're trying to see if it works, something that smacks it so hard that it detonates it."

The M-79 was overhauled to ensure an accuracy at 200 meters. The single-shot weapon fires a 40 mm grenade.

Commanders have held trials to test the ease with which marines could fire the M-79, which looks like a smaller version of a shotgun. During the tests, Marines reported accurate hits within 12 rounds as the grenades landed well within the five meter lethal radius.

CWO 4 Rod Fiene, ordinance officer for 1st Marine Division, said the M-79 was not the only solution explored by the Marines to defeat the IED threat. Fiene said the so-called blooper gun could comprise a low-tech interim solution.

"The only thing we've looked at to defeat it has been high-tech to this point," Fiene said. "Maybe something as simple as a 40 mm grenade might be the answer."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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