Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New Iraq Terrorist Weapon: Flying IED's

No, I'm not joking.

BAGHDAD -- A relatively new weapon has appeared on the streets of Baghdad and earned itself an acronym in the language for destruction. The weapon is the IRAM, an Improvised Rocket Assisted Mortar.

It is technologically crude; its aiming is inaccurate; and the number of times it has been used by Shiite extremists against U.S. forces in the Baghdad area have been few, but its potential for death and destruction is so great that soldiers at many combat operations posts (COPs) around the capital now conduct a number of patrols daily to specifically try to disrupt any attempt to maneuver the device into launching position and fire them.

The IRAM is different in how it is used. In essence it's a flying IED. It consists of a canister -- either a propane gas tank or cylinder -- packed with explosives attached to a rocket tube (body) and powered by a 107mm rocket motor. The device is placed on rocket rails, which can be angled for distance, and fired at its target by a timing device, military officers said.

The rails are placed on the back of a low-sided flat-bed cargo truck, usually a Bongo, which are ever-present in Baghdad. The truck is parked and angled toward the target and the devices (usually four or more in succession) are launched using delayed timers.

Aiming is directional, a sort of a line-of-sight lob over the cab of the truck or over a side. Distance is about 300-500 meters, according to Maj. Geoff Greene, executive officer of the 1st (combined Arms) Battalion of the 68 Armor Regiment.

In June, Greene and the men at COP Callahan in the Shaab district of northeast Baghdad, narrowly escaped an IRAM attack. The truck had been parked and angled several hundred meters away in a residential neighborhood, but one of the IRAMs apparently malfunctioned and exploded before launch, causing at least four others on the truck to explode as well.

The result, Greene said, was 16 civilian deaths, 29 civilian injuries and damage to 15 homes.

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