Roadside bombs have killed around 2,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it could have been much much worse. Thanks to better training, better tactics and some choice pieces of new tech, U.S. forces evade, block or destroy 90 percent of Improvised Explosive Devices. One of the most important bomb-defeating techs is the Warlock radio jammer, which scrambles the signals — from garage door openers or other simple radio transmitters — that detonate many IEDs. Warlock is my pick for the #4 most successful war tech.
I profiled counter-IED operations for National Defense last year. (Man, did that story ever get me into trouble!) Here’s an excerpt:
Details about Warlock’s capabilities — and precise tactics for its use — are classified. But 1st Lt. Derek Austin confirms that the system works. “We think it works,” he corrected himself. After all, he said, the only evidence he has is that his patrols haven’t been blown up. He describes IEDs exploding just as they passed outside the range of the unit’s Warlocks, perhaps indicating that insurgents were trying to detonate the devices as patrols passed — and that Warlock temporarily blocked the signals.
Now, Warlock ain’t perfect. Like any jammer, it targets specific frequencies, so you can dodge Warlock by switching your transmitter, as some insurgents did back in ’04, one trade magazine reported: “Last winter some insurgents discovered which signals the U.S. military equipment could block and which it couldn’t, and could therefore thwart the jammers.”
And Warlock has a nasty habit of jamming the command signals for small drones like Raven, effectively shooting them down.