Weapons: Explosively Formed Penetrators in Iraq


May 22, 2006: Explosively Formed Penetrators (EEPs), 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. 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 EEPs.

Although EEPs 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 EEPs cause about three times as many casualties per explosion as "ordinary" IEDs.

The problem with using EEPs 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 EEP has to hit something pretty much directly in order to have an effect. There is also a range problem, as EEP explosives have a very short effective range (a few feet at most.) Moreover, since EEPs are intended for use against armor, they have limited effectiveness against softer targets.

Reports of EEP IEDs from Iraq are distorted. While these media reports correctly describe the greater damage, they fail to point the difficulty of using EEP IEDs, and the very low number of successful EEP IED attacks.




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