For decades, military explosives have generally fallen into two broad categories — bulk explosive components and role-specific systems. Both categories offer unique value and can be employed for a range of tailored effects. However, these each also present application constraints to the modern multi-tasked infantry or sapper unit. The responsibility of small units to operate autonomously and adjust objectives mid-mission has increased on the contemporary asymmetric battlefield. This means that it is more important than ever for personnel employing explosives to be able to react to unknown targets and adjust desired effects in stride, without negatively impacting resources or time on target. The best way to accomplish this is through the employment of explosive systems that are both modular and multi-purpose.
Role-Specific Explosive Systems
Soldiers approach a wire obstacle with sections of M1A3 Bangalore Torpedo.
Specialized Explosive Systems
Combat environments have always been unpredictable, but today, conventional forces are being tasked with nonstandard missions and tasks. Due to the dynamic nature of tasks asked of the modern, multi-role fighter, it is generally inefficient to bring role-specific explosive systems on general missions. It wouldn’t make sense for an infantry squad to carry a cumbersome Bangalore torpedo on a patrol just in case they happen to come across a wire obstacle. Similarly, no unit would lug 40lb cratering charges or the 112lb APOBS on patrol unless these role-specific charges had a known application on that mission. Most units (even combat engineers) would not even have access to specialized explosive systems unless specifically allocated for a defined mission critical task. Light units are frequently issued fragmentary orders mid-mission and often come across unanticipated obstacles that require explosive disruption. Without the ability to foresee these targets, role-specific charges have limited value.
Building Block Charges
The dynamic nature of the modern combat role has led many small units away from specialized explosive charges in exchange for bulk (block, sheet, and cord) explosive that can be manipulated for unique targets and tasks. This allows personnel to tailor their charge to match their target and desired effect. The biggest issue with this approach is that expedient charge construction still requires pre-mission knowledge of the targets that the unit will encounter as well as technical knowledge for the construction of nonstandard charges and time to prepare them. Carrying a rucksack full of C-4 and detonating cord on patrol broadens the range of charges that could be made for unexpected targets, but has limited value during a mission as there is no time to build expedient Bangalores using that C-4, detcord, and pickets when you are sitting on an unanticipated breach site. Alternatively, even if you have the time to prep your charges before the mission, you still run the risk of encountering targets that are different than anticipated, realizing too late that a wall is 2 feet taller, a door has more hinges, or a column has a greater diameter than your charges were constructed to accommodate.
Access to explosive resources able to be adapted mid-mission is critical for today’s multi-role units. This is why equipment selection prior to mission is so important. Dismounts in particular cannot limit their operational capability by not having the right tools available when they need them. On the other hand, they cannot afford the burden of carrying every potentially valuable resource into battle.
Ever-changing tactical context limits target anticipation and the ability to determine which explosive systems will most likely be deployed on a mission. Engagements with the potential for non-standard obstacles require non-standard explosives and applications. Units without the demolition specialization may not have knowledge of, or access to these resources. Each potential explosive task variation should be factored into resource allocation for missions well in advance of execution to ensure maximum mission effectiveness. If targets and effects can’t be anticipated, then modular, multipurpose, and adaptable charges must be used.
Marines construct an expedient flex linear breaching charge using detonating cord and tape.
Splitting the Difference
Dismounted units need an all-purpose charge. They need something that can quickly conform to any task, target, or desired effect. They need something modular so it can be broken down amongst the patrol to reduce burden or scaled up to employ on larger targets. Mostly, they need a system that is easily modified for employment in a range of explosive tasks in stride.
The most effective answer to the combat explosive dilemma is to balance the effectiveness of the role-specific charges with the adaptability of bulk charge components. Explosive system innovations like Critical Solutions International’s Bandolier charge bridge that gap by offering a system that offers both dynamic adaptability through its modular construction and rapid employment competitive with specialized charges. Utilizing gap-bridging solutions like the Bandolier provides both versatility and rapid employment to modern fighters while lightening their load and increasing maneuverability.