How could a soda can bring down a passenger jet?
The Islamic State circulated a picture of what it said was an improvised explosive device employed to blow up a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai Peninsula final month, killing all 224 people on board. The device, as photographed, is created to masquerade as a typical beverage can.
There is no publicly obtainable proof that this device — pictured in the most current problem of Dabiq, the Islamic State’s propaganda magazine — was in reality associated to the downing of the Russian jet. The photograph could be calculated misinformation, intended to impress the terrorist group’s rank and file or prospective recruits and to distract law enforcement officials.
The New York Times asked career bomb-disposal technicians for their 1st impressions of the pictured device, with the understanding that the photograph is of marginal quality and not all the components can be clearly seen.
The answers had been constant: The device depicted is absolutely nothing new or surprising, and it would not be challenging for an knowledgeable bomb maker to create.
The component noticed on the proper, with black tape and a manual switch, could serve a single of a number of functions. A lot of bombs have an arming-safe switch, and a separate mechanism for initiating the blasting cap and setting off the explosion.
The wires noticed are most likely electrical connections for the blasting cap, which is shown at the center of the picture. The rest of the circuit, hidden beneath the black tape, could contain tiny batteries and the electronics essential to send an electric charge to the blasting cap at the intended moment. The blasting cap would then detonate a primary explosive charge inside the aluminum can.
The can has a hole in the bottom and shows indicators that it may well have been filled with an explosive paste. It is not probably to be a liquid bomb that may possibly demand the black-taped component either to be waterproof (it does not appear so) or to be rigged outside the can (which would make the soft-drink ruse far more vulnerable to detection). The bottom of the can appears crudely resealed and could even expose a white substance, indicating that the can’s contents are far more probably to be strong than liquid.
A thorough technical analysis is impossible from the photograph, but one disposal technician mentioned a soda can could be packed tightly with adequate high explosive to seriously harm a jetliner. Though the blast would possibly not destroy the plane outright, depending on the nature and location of the damage, it could start off a catastrophic sequence of events. A jet moving at cruising speed could then shear apart and break up.
The can has area for much more explosive than is usually identified in a regular military hand grenade — and two jets that crashed in Russia in 2004 were reported to have been brought down by grenades.
A device like this, placed aboard a passenger plane, could be detonated by a timer, by a remote-handle signal from a person on the aircraft, or by other means.
1 disposal technician mentioned that if the device have been a radio-activated bomb, that may clarify the comparatively extended wire seen in the photo: It might serve as an antenna. But after closer examination of the image, he mentioned the wires possibly just connected the blasting cap to a energy source.
Technical matters aside, it would be simpler operationally to detonate a bomb like this with a timer, since that would not require obtaining each the bomb and the bomber on board the plane.
Another bomb disposal technician mentioned that the bomb itself was not impressive, but that the photograph of it was taken cannily: With the crucial elements covered with black tape, “you can’t inform what it is below there, or what it isn’t.” He said there had been a lot of small, easy low-energy timer designs that could match beneath the tape, like one commonly utilized in Palestinian bomb making.
He mentioned the device looked significantly less sophisticated than the remote-controlled bombs that have repeatedly been noticed in Afghanistan and Iraq, which consist of attributes meant to defeat jamming and other countermeasures.
The photograph alone does absolutely nothing to establish that the Islamic State was capable to accomplish any of this. It might be another instance of the group’s adeptness at gaining interest, rather than an indication of its actual activities in the field.