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.

Looking back

“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. 

Tactics, Techniques, Procedures (TTPs)

Another important EDA work strand is the development and training of improved C-IED Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs). “The rule of thumb in C-IED is that to be successful, you need 70% of TTPs, 20% of technology and 10% of luck. We agreed in EDA that if we concentrate on the 70% of TTPs, we can keep more people alive”, remembers Lt Col Lane. As a result, EDA launched a series of courses – combat tracking/situational awareness, etc. – which today are a central part of EDA’s CIED work. The very successful Home Made Explosives (HME) courses co-funded by EDA and EUROPOL and run by the American FBI and the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) showed the value of the comprehensive approach: seamless integration.

Both courses were attended by 23 of the then 27 Member States of the EU. In the field of Manual Neutralisation Techniques (MNT), EDA’s work also started with courses and exercises eventually leading to the establishment, under Austrian lead, of a European Centre for Manual Neutralisation Capabilities (ECMAN) which opened in Vienna in February 2018. ECMAN will pay special attention to Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Improvised Devices (CBRN ID). “If you want to dispose of an IED with a biological or chemical element in it, you cannot proceed as with a conventional IED. You need to apply manual neutralisation techniques. Now we have a European capability that gives us the ability to deal with a chemical or biological agent, using advanced techniques. This is a huge step forward”, stresses Lt Col Lane.

“EDA is small but efficient”

The man who over the past decades was involved in most international C-IED activities is full of praise for EDA. “The big difference with other fora, including NATO/ PFP, is that EDA is a small and flexible organisation where you can get things done. It is just efficient”. A career fully free of regrets and disappointments? “Sure, there were some. For instance, the lack of EDA action on countering marauding terrorist attacks (MTA), due to Member States resistance, despite the fact that this is a threat which requires a European response combining military and civil solutions”.

And the achievement he is most proud of? “Without hesitation: the fact that within those 10 years, since the launch of the EDA C-IED Project Team in 2007, we produced something which saved or has the potential to save people’s lives. Coordination and cooperation saves lives ”.

Lt Col Ray Lane

Lt Col Ray Lane, a founding member and driving force of EDA’s C-IED Project Team, retired on 6 May 2018 after more than 40 years of excellence in the domains of EOD/ IEDD/CBRNE ID. He was Commanding Officer of the Irish Defence Force Ordnance School and served in many missions with UN, EU and NATO, including in Lebanon and Bosnia, as well as most recently as Chief Operations Officer of the C-IED Branch ISAF in Afghanistan. Under his leadership, the Irish Ordnance School held countless EDA and NATO C-IED sponsored courses. Lt Col Lane is also a subject matter expert for the international war crimes tribunal and prepared the UN report for the Goldstone commission on the Israeli invasion of Gaza. He graduated from National University of Ireland (Bsc Hons Chemistry).