Devices to Defeat Bombs Top Government’s Annual Counterterrorism Wish List

By Stew Magnuson
The Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office unveiled its new wish list and it’s no surprise that the majority of projects it wants to fund this year are related to the terrorists’ number one weapon of choice: the improvised explosive device.
Representatives from companies large and small crowded into a small amphitheater Jan. 24 at the Ronald Reagan Trade Center in Washington, D.C., for the release of the CTTSO’s annual procurement plan. The office interviews end-users from about 100 federal agencies that are involved in counterterrorism to find out what they need. That includes everyone from Special Operations Command personnel fighting in Afghanistan to Secret Service agents providing security to VIPs to first responders in local bomb squads.  
Among the IED-related needs is a stand-off scanner for disturbed ground. Finding buried bombs at a distance has been a long-time goal of the office. In this case, unearthed ground could not only be hiding IEDs, but corpses and clandestine tunnels as well. The detector should work at distances of up to 150 meters and weigh no more than 100 pounds, the announcement said.
Other sensors needed include a handheld multi-mode explosive detector that can determine the presence of materials that comprise conventional commercial, military or homemade bombs. The office is also looking for materials that could be used to make gloves that can detect trace explosives. It should change color to let the user wiping a surface know that there are microscopic amounts of explosive chemicals present.
Bomb squads that operate in cities where collateral damage is a possibility have unique requirements. The vehicle-born IED threat is growing, said Ed Bundy, program manager of the improvised explosive device defeat section.
The office is looking for a small scanner that a robot can insert into a suspicious vehicle’s window or another opening and provide first responders with a 3-D image of the contents. Mobile x-ray machines can’t always identify the location of a triggering device, he said.
Bomb squads also need a universal trunk opener. It too must be placed on the vehicle by a robot. It could be a small explosive charge, but the key requirement is that it not damage vehicles that may be parked next to it, Bundy said.  
“In our litigious society, the city usually ends up having to pay for any cars that get little scratches and things like that on them,” Bundy said.
Bomb technicians are also asking for smartphone applications where they can store and download the latest information on IED threats along with tactics, techniques and procedures for dismantling them, Bundy said. That beats carrying around “reams of paper and pocket guides,” he said.
On the protection side, there is a need for a blast resistant door that doesn’t look “like a submarine hatch,” said one CTTSO program manager. Embassies and other facilities that may fall victim to bomb attacks need the protection, but want portals that are “normal in appearance and consistent with traditional hollow metal doors.”
The office would like to take the remotely operated robots that currently look for bombs and mines underwater to the next level. Today, unmanned underwater vehicles only search for such threats. The office wants to add manipulators and other tools that could be used to render the IEDs safe. Modifications of existing commercial or military systems will be considered.
Other non-IED related items the office wants to fund include a small vertical take-off and landing unmanned aircraft weighing no more than 20 pounds, which special operations forces would use for reconnaissance and surveillance. Military commandos also want a modular, air-droppable force protection kit that could help them set up perimeter security in remote areas. It should be able to detect personnel and vehicles up to 500 meters from a camp, and weigh no more than 150 pounds.
The CTTSO welcomes anyone or any organization or company, foreign or domestic, for-profit, or non-profit, to come forth with their ideas. Detailed broad area announcements on these items will be released on or about Feb. 10 at . Preliminary proposals are due 30 days after that, with awards expected by October.

Topics: Bomb and Warhead, Improvised Explosive Devices, C4ISR, Sensors, Tunnel Detection, Homeland Security, Robotics, Unmanned Air Vehicles, Unmanned Ground Vehicles, Special Operations-Low Intensity Conflict

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