Dalgren, VA - Researchers and officials who will work out of the new Naval Directed Energy Center at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division should focus their efforts on defeating improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the No. 1 killer of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Gen. James Mattis, commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command, said recently.
Mattis, who spoke recently at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new center, exhorted those who will be stationed there to find a way to prematurely detonate IEDs, because “defensive measures alone are not going to work.“
“Adding armor to vehicles is ultimately self-limiting,“ he said.
“We've made vehicles so heavy we can't even drive them in Afghanistan, for example.“
Even jammers are a “defensive tactic,“ he added, and “war is not won by remaining on the defensive.“
“Ultimately, we're going to have to have the ability to prematurely detonate an IED,“ he said. “We cannot permit the enemy to determine the time and place of detonation of their weapon of choice.“
Such a capability would turn IEDs against their owners, Mattis continued, which will “create havoc amongst the enemy.“
David Stoudt, distinguished engineer for directed energy at NSWCDD, told reporters following the event that the center has “been very active“ in seeking to defeat IEDs in the field since 2003, and some capabilities have been deployed, although he declined to be more specific for security reasons.
“I will say that we have developed systems and we have deployed systems,“ he said. “We've deployed teams into combat operations -- civilians that work side-by-side with Marines and soldiers countering the IED problem with success. We have deployed systems in the various theaters and we are actively engaged in trying to deploy them into other theaters.“
He said the center has taken a number of different approaches to the problem, usually starting with a commercial off-the-shelf product that can be used quickly in the field, and then developing that concept over time into a more tactical package that is smaller and more rugged.
Researchers are also trying to find ways to detect IEDs better, although “it's a tough problem,“ Stoudt said.
“It's kind of the cat-and-mouse,“ he said. “As soon as you're good at detecting it one way, they'll find a way to counter that.“ -- Dan Taylor