Posted by: sean | February 28, 2007

Iraq and intermediate technology

A blog about technology and national security over at Wired, has a post about the technology used to make explosively formed penetrators in Iraq:

It took years for the American military to learn how to make these weapons on the fly. And yet insurgents in Iraq already have essentially the same capability. It’s an example of what’s been called ‘Intermediate Technology’ which takes a lot of time and money to develop, but when it exists it can be quickly, cheaply copied.

The ability to pick up and use this sort of technology gives an edge to guerrilla forces. As we have seen, insurgents have proved adept at using the Internet, mobile phones, and even interactive DVDs.

The .50 cal sniper rifles also allegedly found in Iraq having been bought originally by Iran are another interesting case. Steyr-Mannlicher, accused of supplying the rifles have given an official statement saying that they have not had any serial numbers to check, so these weapons cannot be confirmed as being those supplied to Iran. Further, they observe that:

Since the international license for these guns has already expired, these weapons can be copied any time by other producers.”

I am reminded of the story of the rifles in the Northwest Frontier. Over a hundred years ago, the British were amazed to find that their tribal opponents were armed with modern Martini-Henry rifles. Efforts to find where they were being imported from were fruitless. The Martini-Henrys were counterfeit, perfect copies manufactured locally in blasksmiths’ forges; these days replica AK-47s (and who knows what else) are turned out by the same method.

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