NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Countering improvised explosive devices

An improvised explosive device (IED) is a type of unconventional explosive weapon that can take any form and be activated in a variety of ways. They target soldiers and civilians alike. In today’s conflicts, IEDs play an increasingly important role and will continue to be part of the operating environment for future NATO military operations.

IEDs are one of the main causes of casualties among troops and exact a heavy toll on local populations. With the aim of reducing the risks posed by IEDs, the Alliance helps members and partners in developing their own counter-IED (C-IED) capabilities, with a particular emphasis on education and training, doctrine development and improving counter-measure technologies.

NATO developed a C-IED Action Plan with three main focus areas: defeating the device (DtD) itself, attacking the network (AtN) and preparing the forces (PtF). With defeating the device, various branches within NATO look at how to detect and neutralise IEDs, exploit the IEDs as a source of information, prepare and train soldiers for an IED environment, develop technology to prevent IED attacks and protect soldiers and civilians.

Neutralisation of IED may be the most visible part of the C-IED effort  but in order for it to be truly effective, it must be preceded with efforts to indentify and disrupt the networks emplacing, building and procuring IEDs. The Alliance focuses on reducing the frequency and severity of IED attacks, while also attacking the networks that facilitate them. Understanding the various threat networks at the tactical to strategic levels is vital to success in current and future operations where battle lines are no longer linear.

C-IED efforts encompass work, research, testing and training conducted at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Allied Command Transformation (ACT) in Norfolk, Virginia (United States), International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Headquarters in Afghanistan, as well as at various Centres of Excellence (CoEs) and NATO Agencies. These different commands, agencies and divisions focus on training, exercises, doctrine development, development of capabilities to defeat IEDs, sharing information and bringing together non-NATO actors to disrupt the network before IEDs kill or injure troops and civilians.

  • Counter Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED) Action Plan

    The C-IED Action Plan guides the Alliance’s efforts to reduce the effects of IEDs and acts as an umbrella for the coordination of the various actors involved in C-IED. It covers all levels of C-IED, from the strategic to the tactical.

    It is built around several different areas, including information-sharing, closer cooperation with other international organisations and law enforcement agencies to reduce the threat posed by transnational networks facilitating the employment of IEDs, specialized training for troops deployed to areas where IEDs are widely used and improving equipment used to detect IEDs and protect troops.

    A revised version of the 2010 Action Plan was approved by NATO in October 2013. The new Action Plan emphasises the need to institutionalise C-IED in the NATO Command and Force structures and to support nations' efforts in doing the same. This means ensuring that this capability stays relevant for NATO operations in order to reduce the impact of IEDs. It also recognises the need to improve understanding and intelligence to support the main effort of the “attack the network” pillar of C-IED capability in support of NATO operations. In this context, the use of biometric information is seen as a key element in countering the threat anonymity. 

    ACT has the overall responsibility for monitoring the implementation of different aspects of the Action Plan and leverages the NATO C-IED Task Force to coordinate and synchronise efforts across NATO Headquarters, Strategic Commands and other NATO bodies.

  • Equipment and technology

    IEDs can be hidden anywhere: in animals, planted in roads or strapped to a person. They can be detonated via cell phones or trip wires, among other methods. They can be deployed everywhere: in a combat environment or in the middle of a busy city. The adaptability of IEDs to almost any situation makes them difficult to detect and stop, which is why NATO members and partners are using several methods to increase counter IED capabilities.

    In line with the NATO Secretary General’s goal of promoting multinational cooperation in defence spending, the Conference of National Armaments Directors (CNAD) has identified 19 initiatives for multinational armaments cooperation in the fight against IEDs. These initiatives, such as joint acquisition of equipment, joint testing of new technology, technological research cooperation and development of common equipment standards, have been regrouped into a C-IED Materiel Roadmap.

    The expert communities within NATO’s Air Force, Army and Naval Armaments Groups have a multitude of studies spanning from detection capabilities to neutralisation, and to minimising effect through soldier, platform and installations protection. These studies yield information-sharing among Allies and partners, standards for effective C-IED in a coordinated and interoperable manner throughout operations, and many cooperative activities including Smart Defence initiatives. These efforts are closely supported by the NATO Industrial Advisory Group (NIAG) studies as well as work ongoing under the Science and Technology Organization (S&TO).

    The CNAD also developed a Voluntary National Contribution Fund (VNCF) to support multinational projects in the C-IED Action Plan, such as pre-deployment training of Weapon Intelligence Teams. NATO members also have access to a Clearing House database, established to facilitate information-sharing on current and future C-IED equipment programmes and to help identify possible areas of cooperation.

    Additionally, NATO has several capability development projects within the Defence Against Terrorism Programme of Work (DAT POW) that focus on developing sensors and information technology to detect IEDs. In addition to the DAT POW, a counter-measure programme designed to identify and deliver short-term capability solutions, specifically includes a C-IED initiative. Among various actors supporting this initiative, the NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCI Agency) is taking the lead in testing various stand-off detection technologies. The C-IED Centre of Excellence in Spain is concentrating on collecting and sharing lessons learned, as well as researching explosively formed projectiles– this kind of IED allows insurgents to hit and destroy both light and heavy armoured vehicles at low cost and with poorly designed penetrators.

    For its part, the EOD Centre of Excellence in Slovakia is focusing on activities, technologies and procedures for IED “Render-Safe” operations in line with the explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) initiative within the same programme.

    Additional DAT POW C-IED projects focus on route clearance, building a NATO C-IED information-management tool or conducting table-top and live exercises to train our troops in a high-threat IED environment. One such exercise is Northern Challenge, led by the Icelandic Coast Guard.  The aim of the exercise is to provide a unique possibility of training mainly for IED teams serving in, or being deployed to, international missions.

    NATO, in cooperation with NCI Agency, helps to coordinate and execute the joint acquisition of C-IED capabilities through a common-funded system or nationally provided funds. NCI Agency analyses emerging technology in an operational environment to ensure they fit with the Alliance’s needs and conducts research and experimentation in response to the Alliance’s urgent requirements.

  • Information-sharing and intelligence

    NATO’s initial C-IED efforts were on detecting and neutralising IEDs. This initial reaction focused on protecting troops against the device by adapting equipment and personal protection, which also led to changes in pre-mission training to include IED disposal. However, C-IED work is not just about detection and neutralisation, but also about addressing the networks behind the IEDs. In line with this, NATO utilises both military and civilian means in the fight against IEDs.

    Information-sharing between international and national law enforcement agencies, as well as border and customs agencies, is instrumental in mapping adversary networks. This helps to disrupt the operational IED chain.

    NATO also trains its troops on how to interact with civilians during deployment. The information provided by civilians who know the area can be instrumental in preventing IED attacks.

  • Education and training

    NATO forces undergo pre-deployment training to prepare them for operations in an IED environment. They also receive further instruction in-theatre to update their training and deal with regional challenges. NATO, with Allied Command Transformation (ACT) in the lead, also focuses on decreasing the gaps between countries in training, standardization and doctrine development regarding C-IED.

    One of the most important aspects of C-IED training is being able to stop networks before emplacement of IEDs, recognise IEDs and safely disable them before they injure or kill troops and civilians. In line with this, ACT offers several C-IED training programmes executed by the C-IED Integrated Product Team, including a Staff Officer Awareness Course, an Attack the Network Tactical Awareness Course, a Weapons Intelligence Team Course and a C-IED Train the Trainer Course.

    Several Centres of Excellence (COEs) also offer specialised courses and training useful for an IED environment. The principal aim of the C-IED COE in Madrid, Spain, for example, is to enhance the capabilities of participants to counter, reduce and eliminate threats from IEDs by offering multinational courses for C-IED experts. The Centre also provides a wide range of subject-matter experts to train and educate national and international forces to conduct C-IED operations. The C-IED COE, in concert with the private sector, also focuses on attacking the network.

    The Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) COE in Trenčín, Slovakia concentrates on “defeating the device”. The EOD COE improves the capabilities of EOD specialists called upon to neutralise IEDs by providing training and expertise in the field of explosive ordnance detection, neutralisation and disposal. In addition to training, the EOD COE also focuses on standardization and doctrine development and developing capabilities for EOD and IED technology improvements.

    Due to their related fields of specialisations, the EOD COE and the C-IED COE are cooperating with each other. Additionally, the COEs have close links with others that specialise in areas that add to the field of countering IEDs, including the Military Engineering (MILENG) COE in Ingolstadt, Germany, the Defence Against Terrorism (DAT) COE in Ankara, Turkey, the Military Medical (MILMED) COE in Budapest, Hungary, and the Human Intelligence (HUMINT) COE in Oradea, Romania.

Last updated: 19-Aug-2014 10:40

High resolution photos

NATO and the fight against terrorism - Counter IEDs 04. Oct. 2005 IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Devices, are one of the main causes of casualties among troops and exact a heavy toll on local populations. 
NATO and the fight against terrorism - Counter IEDs An Improvised Explosive Device is an unconventional explosive weapon that can take any form. Designed to cause death or injury, IEDs are hidden and set off using a variety of trigger mechanisms. 
NATO and the fight against terrorism - Counter IEDs 25. Apr. 2005 Cheap and effective, Improvised Explosives Devices are the weapons currently favoured by insurgents and rebels and are widely used against coalition troops and civilians in Afghanistan. 
NATO and the fight against terrorism - Counter IEDs IEDs are easily hidden, for example in animals, planted in roads or strapped to a person. They can be detonated via cell phones or trip wires, among other methods. They can be deployed everywhere in a combat environment or in the middle of a busy city. 
NATO and the fight against terrorism - Counter IEDs According to a UN report, 2,777 civilians were killed in 2010 in Afghanistan, an increase of 15 per cent compared to 2009. Of that number, suicide attacks and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were to blame for 1,141 deaths, or just over 40 per cent. 
NATO and the fight against terrorism - Counter IEDs 04. Nov. 2006 Currently, the most effective tool against remotely-activated IEDs is radio frequency jammers, according to Franco Fiore, Counter IED Principal Scientist at NATO Consultation, Command and Control Agency (NC3A). 
NATO and the fight against terrorism - Counter IEDs NATO C3 Agency has recently deployed jammers against remotely controlled IEDs, installing them on ISAF vehicles and at Entry Control Points. 
NATO and the fight against terrorism - Counter IEDs 17. Nov. 2010 Counter_IEDs (C-IEDs) is one of 11 items endorsed by Heads of State and Government as part of the 2010 Lisbon Summit Package of "most pressing capability needs". 
NATO and the fight against terrorism - Counter IEDs 08. Jan. 2010 NATO, under the guidance of Allied Command Transformation (ACT) and in line with the NATO C-IED Action Plan, provides C-IED training to troops as they prepare to deploy, while ISAF provides further training in Afghanistan. 
NATO and the fight against terrorism - Counter IEDs Chemical or biological material may also be added to IEDs to make a dirty bomb. This threatens life beyond the initial explosion. 
NATO and the fight against terrorism - Counter IEDs 27. Oct. 2008 The NATO C3 Agency is installing C-IED sensors to prevent Vehicle Borne IEDs and Suicide Bombers from entering ISAF bases. Currently, over 20 of these sensors are in use at ISAF HQ, Kabul International Airport (KBL) and Kandahar Airfield (KAF), scanning vehicles, people and hand luggage. 
NATO and the fight against terrorism - Counter IEDs NATO's Emerging Security Challenges Division, Counter terrorism Section, with the support of the NATO C3 Agency, is looking at new technologies to detect roadside bombs in order to protect soldiers travelling in convoys.