Spy planes help detect roadside bombs in Afghanistan


USA Today

Images from spy planes and sensors that detect wires that trigger explosives have helped to mitigate the No. 1 threat to U.S. troops in Afghanistan — roadside bombs — over the past year.

The Pentagon has filled the skies over Afghanistan with high-tech sensors, and the effect has been measurable. From March through May, troops in vehicles found 64 percent of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) before they blew up, an 11 percentage-point increase over the previous quarter. Troops on foot patrol discovered 81 percent, a 4 percentage-point increase, according to the Pentagon’s Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO).

The rate of discovery before bombs exploded hovered around 50 percent for years. The most important measure of progress: IEDs caused less than half of troop deaths for the first time in five years.

“We are, in terms of detection of all types of IEDs, vastly better than we were a year ago,” Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told USA Today in an interview. He credited airborne surveillance with driving progress against IEDs.