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US warboffins update Where Eagles Dare gizmo-bombs

Multifunction plug-in detonator gadgets sought

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Who here remembers the nifty little gizmo-bombs used so inventively by Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton in WWII flick Where Eagles Dare? If you liked them, it seems you're not alone, as US special ops Q-Branch boffins are now looking to buy a detonator unit with even more functions.

The boffins in question are those of the Naval Surface Warfare Centre (Crane Division), long renowned as gadget builders and gunsmiths to the top-secret yet famous Navy SEAL frogman-commandos and their various Special Operations Command (SOCOM) colleagues.

It seems that elements in SOCOM are getting a bit tired of all the various different kinds of specialist, fiddly demolitions bits and pieces. At present, Western military types wishing to blow something up usually have to assemble firing circuits, electronics, detonators, and main charges in the field - or at any rate lash them together with gaffer tape and so forth prior to parachuting, submarining, or helicoptering into action.

No more, say NSW-Crane. Instead, there should be a single main module about the size of a deck of cards, which has built into it a detonator able to set off a charge of plastic explosive, a length of detcord, or a pyrotechnic fuse. This base module should have a timer, able to go off at a set time or after counting down a set period.

The primary unit needs to be safe from triggering by electromagnetic emissions and safe to carry even when attached to the main charge in true movie style (Clint and Richard's cheery practice of carrying fitted charges about loose in a bag for days would turn even the most swashbuckling real-world demolitions type a bit thoughtful). It has to be waterproof to 66-foot depths and work in extreme cold or brutal heat, and its software/firmware must comply with US military regs.

The clever bit, however, comes in the fact that the base timer detonator is to have "a standard connection/interface to be used with all attachable accessories...ie any source input signal can be recognized and used to initiate the base unit".

The attachable accessories are to include a sympathetic detonator triggered by the blast of another nearby explosion - so letting American supertroopers rig up fearful daisy-chains of destruction amid enemy camps or whatever. (In real life, unassisted explosives often stubbornly refuse to go off even when quite close to adjacent bangs).

NSW-Crane also require a breaching initiator for blowing in doors (or simply creating doors where there were none before), offering reliable 50m range even indoors and round corners. There should also be a more conventional radio job with 18km range in line of sight.

Then it gets a bit cheeky: There should also be a motion-detector attachment, allowing very tricky booby traps to be set up. (Sensibly there has to be a self-destruct timer on this one - otherwise it could be an international-convention-busting landmine hazard). There's also to be a magnetic metal-detector job, with similar compliance features.

And finally, of course, a "trip wire initiator" in old-school style. All in all, fit to do Loo-tenant Schaffer's heart good: With a box of tricks like this and a few sticks of C4/PE4, no alpine castle full of Nazis would last a day.

Prices on the plugin trigger gizmos aren't set, but the base unit - which would be the most expensive component - is to cost "approximately $300 or less" in batches of 10,000. Full details for any budding Q-Branch types interested in bidding can be downloaded here (Word doc). ®

Lewis Page used to blow stuff up all the time for the British government. Nobody ever gave him anything as nifty as this. That said, supplies of black masking tape were generous.

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