WASHINGTON --- The Army has developed a new device to thwart terrorist activities while saving service members’ lives.
The Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) Countermeasure Equipment, otherwise known as ICE, was developed by a team of engineers, scientists and Soldiers at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico to defeat IEDs, which are the most prominent threat to deployed service members in Iraq.
The ICE device , which is roughly the size of a bread box uses commercial and military technology to thwart enemy IEDs said Maj. Raymond D. Pickering, who helped lead the ICE design team at White Sands during its development. Thousands of ICE systems are being utilized by all of the military services, and thousands of more are on order according to Pickering.
He said that the design process involved thinking like a terrorist and acting like one too – fast.
“In the old days, we fought wars by buying a tank and then the enemy would buy a tank and try to defeat ours – that whole process took years,” he said. “Nowadays, terrorists use mortar and artillery shells as weapons and trigger them with devices like a garage door opener.” Pickering said explaining that they can purchase parts on the commercial market and design new weapons very quickly.
Due to the combined efforts of engineers, scientists and Soldiers working at the Army Research Laboratory at White Sands Missile Range and New Mexico State University’s Physical Science Laboratory, ICE was conceptualized and fielded in less than six months.
“Normally, it takes years to develop a prototype, test, manufacture and field it. The desire to get a product in the hands our fighting forces immediately and prevent further casualties overcame the lengthy process,” Pickering said.
Shane Cunico, the lead ICE engineer at White Sands, said that everyday there’s a delay in the process means a service member may not come home.
“Approximately three service members are killed by an IED everyday,” he said. “We had to get the product into their hands as fast as we could because even one day means something.”
Cunico said the military’s old acquisition process is costly in terms of time and money (millions of dollars) and that a terrorist can wipe out all of the work done by engineers by switching to a new weapon.
“Countering terrorism is like a big chess game where you make one move and they make another - it’s crucial that we stay one or two moves ahead of them,” he said.
For their engineering efforts, Cunico, Pickering and Sam Mares, lead engineer at New Mexico State University, recently received one of the Army’s Greatest Inventions Award for 2004, an annual competition to recognize excellence in achievement.
Richard Flores, White Sands manager for Survivability/Lethality Analysis Directorate and Army Research Laboratory, said the award and the impact of the device in terms of lives saved would not be possible without their sacrifice. “They truly exemplified the Army spirit of working as a team,” Flores said.
Cunico stressed ICE is an important development because it is an adaptable piece of equipment. “It’s not a static device – we can add to its capabilities. If the process is too time consuming, the military ends up with a big paperweight that costs a lot of money and can’t be adapted to the changing pace of terrorists.”
There are other IED counter measure systems on the market that all serve a value, but ICE is different, he said. “It’s unique in the fact that it’s a government design; it has programmability, can be fielded at a rapid pace and has an unlimited capacity in terms of manufacturing,” Cunico said. “Engineers can design almost anything, but it’s important to get the product to the Soldier to see how it’s tactically used because it affects design feasibility.”
Cunico and Pickering both agree that Soldier input is crucial to engineering a useful product. “We have received a lot of positive feedback from the field and since then we have developed 5,000 remote control cables that can be used from the front seat or passenger side of a Humvee to activate the device,” Cunico said.
They also stressed that there are a lot of people involved with ICE who believe in what they’re doing. “There was no ego involved – it required the efforts of many selfless people to get this product out there to save lives,” Cunico said. He stated that without John Tirrell, a Joint IED Task Force member, and Marine Corps Maj. Bruce Paterson to kick down the first doors of bureaucracy, ICE would not be where it is today – in the hands of service members who need it. Cunico also credits the strong leadership of Major Terrece Harris, Pickering's replacement who continues to lead the ICE program through its most critical stages.
In terms of maintenance, ICE can be repaired by Soldiers in theater at the unit level. Recalling a Marine who did not want to part with his box, Cunico smiled.
“He brought his box in to be reprogrammed and the shop told him to come back the next day, but he told them he was willing to wait because he was not leaving without it,” Cunico said. “It’s heartening to know our efforts really mean something to folks out there.”
He said companies such as Canberra Aquila, Delta Engineering Group, Inc. and Raytheon Technical Services are working together to bring service members home to their families safely. “Naturally there’s competition, but they’re coordinating to give us what we need and build a common product for America’s service members.”
“We shifted our focus from missiles to a new emerging threat - the garage door opener. With ICE, this is how we think we can address the agile enemy but the battle will continue,” Pickering said.