Project objectives

Improving security for society and citizens

The threat of terrorist attacks is a very real concern for citizens in many parts of Europe. Although capital cities are typical targets, all EU citizens are potential victims of attacks such as the London or Madrid bombings.

There is today no commercial available large detection system that focuses on the production phase of explosives. If illicit production sites are discovered, it is either by chance or by traditional intelligence gathering methods.

Enabling proactivity

A system like EMPHASIS would allow law enforcement agencies to become proactive, to act during a phase where there is low threat to citizens and thus prevent production during a time where alternative response actions can be exploited.

On 7 July 2005, three bombs exploded within a very short timeframe on three of the London Underground trains. A fourth bomb exploded somewhat later on a double-decker bus. The bombs were of the home-made explosive types and were packed into rucksacks. The discovery of these types of suicide bomb attacks is very difficult and relies on intelligence and qualified police work. If discovered at a late stage of the criminal activity it is very hard to neutralise the object without consequences for third person.

However, for a system such as EMPHASIS the objective is to discover the illicit activities at a very early stage thus making the neutralisation both easier and with minimum consequence for the third person. This is one of the strength of EMPHASIS.

Helping end users locating IED manufacturing facilities

One of the largest scientific, technological and deployment challenges in the security domain today is the development of systems for localisation of IED manufacturing facilities. The IEDs, that can be prepared in ordinary kitchens, contain explosives that in terrorist attacks give devastating effects. For the law enforcement services there is at present an urgent need for tools that contributes to the early discovery and neutralisation of illicit production of explosives.

The most important and concrete contributions from the EMPHASIS system with respect to the complex task of locating IED manufacturing facilities are:

• An early warning
• Pinpointing of the location of the bomb factory
• Automatic system
• Less personnel requirements as compared to normal intelligence

The concept of the EMPHASIS surveillance system for the localisation of IED manufacturing facilities is unique in this area as there today are no commercial systems available.

The key end user benefits from the EMPHASIS system by savings in terms of security personnel time. Security agencies in Europe are currently monitoring a large number of potential illicit sites, often clustered together. An area or building under intelligence-lead focus could be monitored automatically using the EMPHASIS system. The system would narrow down the search area and confirm where and when illicit laboratory activities are taking place. This would mean a much more efficient usage of security resources.

A key aspect of the EMHPASIS concept is that it will allow efficient intelligence lead assessment of an area of a city in order to establish where, and more crucially when illicit bomb-making activity is occurring. A successful system based on EMPHASIS would lead to a very significant reduction in surveillance man-power of suspect areas. Critically, when a narrow area or house has been identified as being under suspicion, the system will provide invaluable assistance in the timing of police intervention increasing the chance of successful convictions as a consequence.

A feasibility and cost effectiveness study will be performed in order to ensure a commercially realistic system.

The IED threats to society and citizens

The first large-scale use of IEDs was probably during World War II and ever since IEDs have been used both as an unconventional warfare in military theatres of operation such as in Iraq and Afghanistan and in terrorist attacks such as the Bali (2002), Madrid (2004) or London bombings (2005).

IEDs can be manufactured from military and commercially based explosives or home-made explosives and often a combination of these are used in terrorist attacks. The bomb factory may be in an apartment in a large city such as those used in the London Underground attacks and consequently very difficult to both discover and localise.

An increasing threat to the European cities is IEDs made from firework materials. The United Kingdom has a specific task force set up to deal with this issue.

It is evident that there exists an urgent need for new tools in the extensive work of preventing future terrorist attacks.

FOI, Swedish Defence Research Agency 
Department of Energetic Materials
Grindsjön Research Centre
SE-147 25 Tumba