In 2009, there were 7,228 IED attacks in Afghanistan, a 120% increase over 2008, and record for the war. Of the 512 foreign soldiers killed in 2009, 448 were killed in action. 280 of those were killed by IEDs. In 2010, IED attacks in Afghanistan wounded 3,366 U.S. soldiers, which is nearly 60% of the total IED-wounded since the start of the war. Of the 711 foreign soldiers killed in 2010, 630 were killed in action. 368 of those were killed by IEDs, which is around 36% of the total IED-killed since the start of the war to date. Insurgents planted 14,661 IEDs in 2010, a 62% increase over the previous year.

The number of killed in 2012 was 405.

Improvised explosive devices (IED) have been brutally effective weapons for insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, and increasingly, in other parts of the world. IEDs have been blamed for thousands of deaths of military personnel and also civilians. The US and its allies have responded to the IED threat by spending billions of dollars on vehicles, equipment, personnel and training for counter-IED and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) missions.

This has provided very strong demand in recent years in the counter-IED systems market. Based on vision gain’s research, global spending on counter-IED systems amounted to $7.7bn in 2009. (source The Counter-IED Market 2010-2020: Systems and Technologies for Force Protection)

Even with an annual spend of US$7.7 bn on detection technologies still the most reliable way of finding an IED or mine is by “Prodding” with a near horizontal blade.


Numerous technologies have been tried:

  • Metal detectors – can’t detect non metallic IEDs
  • Ground penetrating radar – cannot differentiate between a mine and other regular shaped items.
  • Defeated by moisture.
  • Ion Mobility Spectrometry & Laser Spectroscopy – sniffing or florescence only works if traces are above ground.
  • Nuclear Quadrupole Resonance – frequency harmonics – very expensive and only recognises known substances.

The only technology that can “see” into the ground is X – ray backscatter, where reflections of low power X – ray emissions bounced off of a target are received back and displayed as an image of the target.


The use of X ray backscatter for the detection of objects buried beneath the soil surface or inside a shipping container has been known for more than 40 years, but it has not been practical until now:

X – ray is generated as a narrow pencil beam. If this was to be used in a system for imaging a buried item somewhere in the ground, the narrow beam would have to be scanned (rastered) across the ground followed by a detector that only receives VERTICAL reflections so that a coherent image can be slowly built up. For an area of 1 square metre this could take in excess of 2 hours and is not practical.

Disarmco has developed and patented the first vertically collimated wide beam X – ray emitter. It can be made almost any size, for example up to 1 metre wide x 10mm deep and when attached to a detector array of the same dimensions could sweep across the ground very rapidly, locating anomalies as different from the surrounding area and after a short dwell over the anomaly a picture will be formed on the operators display.

The unit does not use a conventional X – ray tube, which is too fragile for the rigours of outdoor use and it uses much lower voltages, the output is pulsed so the power consumption is low and it can be battery operated.

It could be mounted on a ROV or hand held where it will ideally suited to look in vertical surface, down drains or looking into parcels like the Boston Marathon bomb.

The product is still under development but we welcome enquiries, sales and technical.