Shape of things to comeElephant trap for truck-bombs

Published 18 September 2007

A truck bomb killed 241 soliders in Beirut in 1983, and they continue to reap their grim harvest in Iraq and Afghanistan; a designer suggests an elephant-trap design as proetction

On 23 October 1983 a truck filled with explosives rammed into the Marines barracks in Beirut, killing 241 soldiers. Car- and truck-bombs have been used as an effective mass-killing weapon in the Middle East ever since, with Iraq now the main theater in which they demonstrate their deadly efficiency. The U.S. Army is worried about IEDs, and it is also worried about suicide bombers targeting its facilities. The usual way of thwarting truck bombs is on disply on Pennsylvania Avenue, in front of the White House: Placing large, heavy obstacles at entrances to and around building to prevent such vehicles gaining access. To avoid the image of a city under siege, the Secret Service often use the large, concrete obstacles as flower pots and such, but the image remains.

Now the army has funded inventor Charles Marsh to design an unobtrusive way of stopping unauthorized vehicles. His idea reminds us of an elephant trap: You dig a truck-sized trench across the access road, and cover it with an aluminium plate strong enough to support the vehicle. In ordinary circumstances, the trench is entirely hidden, but the plate is hinged on one side. If a vehicle attempt to cross without authorization, the plate drops and the vehicle drives into the trench to await appropriate action from security personnel. The invention can also include a hydraulic lift to raise the vehicle out of the trench.

For more details, see Marsh’s hidden barrier patent application.