Weapons: Iranian EFPs Proliferate


August 9, 2007: Iran has been shipping many more Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs) into Iraq this year. In January, about thirty of them were used to attack U.S. troops. That rose to 65 by April, and 99 in July. The EFP, more commonly known as "shaped charges," have been around since World War II, when they were famously used in the bazooka and Panzerfaust (the model for the later RPG) portable anti-tank weapons. The EFP is an improved design over the basic shaped charge developed during World War II. Although most of the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used in attacks against government and Coalition forces in Iraq have used conventional explosives (demolition charges, artillery shells, mines, etc.), a very small number have been fabricated using EFPs.

Although EFPs are used in RPGs and similar missile weapons, they are not well suited for use in IEDs. This is fortunate, as they are much more dangerous. Reportedly EFPs cause about three times as many casualties per explosion as ordinary IEDs. A third of American combat deaths in July were caused by EFPs, and most of them are used by pro-Iranian Shia militias in Baghdad.

The problem with using EFPs as IEDs is that they have to be aimed. Most IEDs are designed to be detonated by trip-wire or similar mechanism or by remote command. Even a remotely detonated IED can cause serious damage, since it's the explosion is going to affect an area of some size. In contrast, an EFP has to hit something pretty much directly in order to have an effect. There is also a range problem, as EFP explosives have a very short effective range (a few feet at most.) Moreover, since EFPs are intended for use against armor, they have limited effectiveness against softer targets.

Iran has been smuggling many more EFPs into Iraq this year, and pro-Iranian terrorists use them in Shia neighborhoods of Baghdad. The EFP is most easily used in urban areas, where U.S. vehicles can be easily stopped, and where there is much less possibility of nearby civilians (usually Shia Arabs) being injured. More of these EFPs are being captured as they are being smuggled into Iraq. Examination of those, with the ones used in attacks, confirms that they come from the same source: a factory in Iran.


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