Those who witnessed the early days of European C-IED cooperation corroborate that the start of what is nowadays considered a success story was anything but self-evident.
Lt Col Ray Lane, Commanding Officer of the Irish Defence Forces Ordnance School in Ireland and a globally renowned expert in Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), Improvised Explosive Device Disposal (IEDD) and Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Improvised Devices disposal (CBRN IDD), is a man of the very first hour.
As he prepared to retire on 6 May 2018 after more than 40 years of service, he still painfully remembers the tragic day in May 1974 when an improvised IRA bomb killed 33 people in Dublin and Monaghan. “At the time, there was no real response to that type of attack which, until then, had not be seen as a real threat in the Republic of Ireland”, he told European Defence Matters. “Heroic men went out that day, at the risk of their lives, to confront a new and very complex situation with only very basic equipment at their disposal”.
The Dublin/Monaghan bloodshed proved a watershed moment as it sparked the development of a bomb disposal capability within the Irish Defence Forces which gained considerable traction in the 80s and 90s and, to some extent, inspired other European countries to do more in this strategically important area too.
Shifting the focus
In 2007, Lt Col Lane became Chief Operations Officer of ISAF’s C-IED branch in Afghanistan. “At that time, we were losing significant numbers of soldiers from improvised explosive devices (IEDs). We had no real response to it”. The most frustrating aspect, he says, was that the majority of these casualties were “perfectly preventable”. He managed to persuade ISAF’s military command to pay more attention to C-IED. “The focus at that time was all on hardware: tanks, planes, heavy material. I made it clear that the focus also needed to be shifted to our men: on behaviour and awareness. From that moment on, C-IED considerations and requirements were systematically taken into account. Specific C-IED techniques and procedures were introduced and casualties were reduced”.
A comprehensive C-IED strategy was established within ISAF including also forensic analyses, for instance of the origins and supply chains of components used in a device: the star t of C-IED exploitation. “It was a great success, we saved people by implementing this strategy”. Shortly afterwards, Lt Col Lane returned to his Ordnance School in Ireland with significant new expertise and technical knowledge in his baggage.
EDA project team
“One day in 2007, that letter with the EDA logo arrived at my school, looking for people interested in taking part in the European Defence Agency C-IED Project Team. I said to myself: fantastic, and off I was to Brussels for the first meeting. There were eleven Member States participating”, Lt Col Lane remembers.
It was the start of a long and close relationship with the Agency. From 2007 until his retirement in May 2018, Lt Col Lane attended all but one of the C-IED Project Team (PT) meetings, 23 in total. Armed with his frontline experience in Ireland and Afghanistan, he was charged with developing guidelines which should guide the Agency’s work in this field for years to come.
“A lot has been achieved since 2007. All the people involved in the EDA PT can be proud of what has been done over the past ten years”, Lt Col lane says. For instance in the crucial field of IED exploitation.
The PT received EDA funding to develop a mobile C-IED laboratory. Again, it was Lt Col Lane’s Ordnance School who took the lead and came up with a Theatre Exploitation Laboratory Demonstrator (TELD) inspired with what had been used by ISAF in Afghanistan. “From the development at my desk in Ireland to the demonstrator’s test deployment in Spain, it took less than a year”. It was deployed to Afghanistan (2010- 2014) as an EDA-developed Multi-National Theatre Exploitation Laboratory (MNTEL), owned by ISAF and headed by France. “A tangible, cutting-edge product supporting a multinational mission. That was new ground for Europe in the C-IED field”.
After that, EDA’s IED exploitation work strand made rapid progress with the development, under the lead of the Net her lands , of a Joint D eployable Exploitation and Analysis Laboratory (JDEAL) established since November 2014 in Soesterberg (NL). A second JDEAL facility has been added recently; both are ready to deploy.