A new X-ray system of innovative optical processing technology will allow soldiers to identify potential bombs from the safety of their vehicles, providing a potentially powerful weapon against insurgents’ signature weapon, the IED.

Although IED attacks in Afghanistan reached a high in 2011 of 16,000 that has been sustained through the first half of 2013, casualties and injuries have been dramatically reduced to nearly half from 2011 to 2012. Yet, IEDs still remain the largest threat to deployed troops and their use on a global scale appears to be on the rise, according to the Department of Defense. The devices are a problem the Pentagon has spent billions of dollars to combat since the start of the Iraq insurgency.

Unveiled last month in London, Raytheon UK‘s Soteria vehicle-mounted system is the latest solution offered by the defense industry. Soteria, named after the Greek goddess of safety, provides high-definition IED detection, which allows personnel to remain in the safety of their vehicle while being able to detect, confirm and diagnose threats from a significant stand-off distance.

The sophisticated roof-mounted sensor scans ahead of the vehicle and feeds the shape, size, orientation and exact location of hidden IEDs to an in-vehicle display. Soteria is also equipped with ground vibration monitoring capabilities in the front of the vehicle, making it best suited to lead convoys according to Raytheon.

In simulation, Soteria was able to locate and classify the most difficult to detect of explosive devices, including those with low and zero metal content, says Raytheon.

“The system can be applied to a wide range of scenarios including minefield clearance, which remains a significant menace in various world regions, as well as in other operations such as disaster relief,” said Bob Delorge, chief executive of Raytheon UK, in a statement.

The stand-off IED and suicide bomber detection systems market has ballooned in recent years from $250 million in 2009 to a projected $1.5 billion in 2014.

Despite the significance of the threat, a solution to the problem has remained elusive for the Department of Defense and the defense industry.

The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) has gone from a 12-person Army task force founded in 2006 to a 1,900 person, $21 billion juggernaut with little to show for it (except for these ray guns).

Last month, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John F. Sopko reported that the Department of Defense awarded $32 million in contracts for thousands of anti-IED systems, called culvert denial systems, but that hundreds were improperly installed or not installed at all.

“This case shows so clearly that fraud can kill in Afghanistan,” said Sopko in a statement. “We will find out if contracting officers did not do their job and if that proves to be true and Americans have died, we will hold those individuals responsible.”

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