Make Your Own EFP--No Need to Dial
Sold to Mr. Gordon, Another Bridge!
By ALEXANDER COCKBURN
It requires no special skill to sell Michael Gordon, chief military
correspondent of the New York Times, the
is whisper down the phone to him that the transaction will occur at a
background "briefing" by anonymous intelligence sources and a "senior
official" or two.
One would think that it would require astonishing rhetorical ingenuity on
the part of the salesteam (in fact operating out of the U.S. Defense
Department) to keep on selling Gordon the Brooklyn Bridge, long after the
deed from the first sale has been pronounced an obvious fraud. But it's not
so strange, really. Your true sucker is a vain fellow, who can never accept
the evidence of his own gullibility and who therefore regards each
successive purchase of the
re- establish him in the public eye as a man with a keen eye for the good
deal. He thus becomes psychologically and professionally a captive of the
On September 8, 2002 the New York Times editors published Gordon and Judith
Miller's fictions concerning aluminum tubes in
Saddam's nuclear program. Much too late this bout of bridge-buying on the
part of the Times duo prompted widespread derision and finally the
embarrassed Times editor banned Miller from bridge-buying altogether.
No such restraints were placed on Gordon. After lying low while Miller took
the heat, he was back late last year, promoting the famous "surge", sold him
by General Petraeus and others. Then, Saturday, February 10, the Times
excitedly announced another major purchase.
The story was from the usual salesfolk, unnamed "American officials." Their
mission: get Gordon to boost Bush's anti-Iran propaganda drive by promoting
the story that
formed penetrator," the war's "most lethal weapon" now killing American boys
in their Humvees, Bradleys and even Abrams tanks.
"To make the weapon," Gordon confided to Times readers, "a metal cylinder is
filled with powerful explosives. A metal concave disk manufactured on a
special press is fixed to the firing endÍ According to American
provided similar technology. The manufacture of the key metal components
required sophisticated machinery, raw material and expertise that American
intelligence agencies do not believe can be found in
Now, the people attacking and killing most American troops in
Shi'a but Sunni, and are therefore unlikely to have been supplied by
insurgency by roadside bombs, aka IEDs. 170 American soldiers have been
killed by EFPs since June 2004, less than 8% of the total killed in action.
Explosively-formed penetrators are a not-so-recent variant on the 1885
Munroe Effect, the original idea behind the shaped charge. (My informant
here is Pierre Sprey, a former weapons designer with the A-10 and F-16
planes on his CV.) 2) Conventional shaped charges are a copper (or other
metal) funnel inside a cylindrical casing with the open end facing the
target and with powder packed behind the narrow end. The powder is ignited
behind the funnel and an explosive shock wave collapses the funnel, creating
a hot gas blowtorch jet carrying with it a slug of molten metal. Such shaped
charges are optimized to go off within a foot or less from the surface of
the target--and to burn through thick armor by creating the most focused jet
and deepest, smallest hole possible. To get a good effect from a shaped
charge, you have to a) propel it with a rocket or cannon projectile so it'll
go off right on the surface of the target; or b) bury it as a mine in a road
so that it's very close to the belly armor of a vehicle when it goes off.
The EFD variation on this principle substitutes a bowl-like dish of copper
for the funnel. This sacrifices the efficiency of the highly focused jet
that drills the deepest possible hole in return for a slower, more cohesive
slug of molten metal that will hang together even if the charge is detonated
20 to 100 feet from the target. Thus, the EFD warhead or bomb can be placed
at or beyond the shoulder of a road (or on top of a concrete barrier or in
the window of a house right on the road) aimed at the center of the road.
When a vehicle or convoy comes along, it can be fired manually by a remote
and concealed insurgent (or triggered automatically by a garage door opener
infrared beam); in other words, the EFD can be used like a hidden short
range armor piercing gun with little risk to the remote firer. This makes
the EFP a tactical alternative to parking a sedan full of explosives by the
side of the road and blowing it up when a Bradley or Humvee comes along.
Casualties caused by an EFP will be smaller, but it's more portable.
The US Defense Departnment started developing small, highly refined EFD
warhead bomblets dropped on parachutes and fired by miniature IR or radar
sensors in 1977 as part of the Assault Breaker program. There are both Army
and Air Force spinoffs--all enormously and impractically expensive in
production-- of this program. The current USAF in-production EFP cluster
bomb is called the CBU-97. From 1980 to today, the documented cheating
during the testing of this weapon has been egregious, even by USAF testing
standards (which are lax indeed). It's certain that the EFD idea is
substantially older than 1977.
The first terrorist use of an EFD was in the 1989 assassination of German
banker Alfred Herrhausen in his armored limousine, attributed to the Red
Army Faction. This was almost certainly a homemade device made by
The improvised EFPs used in
components. The necessary equipment consists of a copper bowl (a hand beaten
one like they sell to tourists all over the
diameter iron or steel sewer pipe or oil pipe (the oil pipe is excellent
quality steel), a few pounds of explosive and a fuse. The 380 tons of US RDX
explosive that went missing due to lax security would be ultra-high quality
stuff for the job. All the insurgents need is one or two chalk talks or a
video tape to learn how to make an EFP. That's all it takes to transfer the
The use of EFPs in
insurgents in late 2003 and have been used steadily--in small numbers--since
Though the Times itself allowed a follow-up news story and an editorial to
express cautionon about Gordon's alarums, his February 10 story gave status
to the government's scaremongering about Iran's role in Iraq. So there it
is. Another bridge in Gordon's real estate portfolio, as the New York Times
puts its editorial shoulder behind Bush's war, as it has done from the
start. Times chairman Sulzberger told the grandees assembled in Davos last
January, "I really don't know whether we'll be printing the Times in five
years." Hasten the day.
From Laptop to Smith Corona A Journey Back in Tech Time
A few days ago Jeffrey St Clair forwarded me a little item, with the
question, "Isn't this how Sainath once filed a story?" Below was a picture
of an Indian peddling a stationary bike to power a laptop. On the cover of
the laptop were the words
picture were the words Microsoft Global Supply Center. I emailed Sainath in
Hi, Yes, I actually did. But without the plug for Microsoft on the cover of
That apart, this was pretty much part of what happened. It went on to get
even more complicated after that. And to me, that experience was a fair
I had pics in my digital camera, and a laptop battery sinking swiftly. A guy
in one of the villages rigged up some attachment I have never quite
understood to give my battery what he called "45 minutes worth of charge,
roughly." This was attachment led to a bicycle-powered electricity
generator, something bigger and more awkward looking than the one in the
I wrote the story. I even transferred the pics from digital cam to laptop.
Then the battery began to do a sprint. I raced to the nearest city -- all
cyber cafes were down: no power thanks to govt. imposed powercuts (Mumbai
does not have them, but the villages can have power cuts of up to 15 hours.
No business centres at hotels either! Meanwhile, I put the pics from the
laptop onto a CD, thinking I would courier the whole damn thing to my
newspaper in Chennai. Found a) that the text file would not get onto the CD(
don't ask me why, maybe the battery was too drained) and b) no direct
courier existed who could get my stuff to Chennai by the next morning.
Went to an old retired journalist's house and used his Smith Corona
typewriter made in the days when the same armament makers made both
typewriters and guns (this one was at least from the 1940s, he claimed it
was even older and it might have been).
I typed out the text looking at the screen of a laptop in its last throes.
Now I had text on paper and pics on CD. We found an 'angadia' -- a very
specially Indian (oarticularly Mumbai-Gujarat) courier. These are highly
trusted guys who carry diamonds, gens and jewellery for diamond merchants in
Mumbai. They fill no forms, carry no files, just diamonds in puched around
their body, invisible from public view.
They said" no problem. We'll get your packet to Mumbai, and deliver it to a
mainline courier in Mumbai who will send it to Chennai to your office.
And they did -- for ten rupees (15 - 20 cents?) At thge end of my effort,
the technologies used included a very sophisticated SONY VAIO, a SONY
digital camera (then a smart new model), a bicycle-turned electricity
generator, a bus, an ancient Smith-Corona typewriter and an angadia!
Footnote: a shorter version of the first item ran in the print edition of
The Nation that went to press last Wednesday