An Australian War Memorial media viewing of improvised explosive devices recovered from Afghanistan was cancelled at short notice this morning following confirmation that a 24-year-old Special Air Services Regiment soldier had been killed in a blast overnight.
The viewing, to coincide with the launch of a book detailing the way in which many of the items in the AWM collection had been acquired, was also intended to publicise an exhibition highlighting the sophistication of the deadly devices to be held in 2013.
Of the 39 Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan since February 16, 2002, 14 have been victims of land mines or Improvised Explosive Devices.
Highly sophisticated in design, despite the use of “garden shed’’ materials including plastic containers and home-made phosphate based explosives, the IEDs are a hallmark of the Afghan conflict and have claimed far more civilian lives than foreign troops.
Last night’s victim, whose name has not yet been released, is the first Australian to be killed by an IED since Private Matthew Lambert’s death on his first tour to Afghanistan exactly 14 months ago on August 22, 2011.
Six of the 10 Australia’s to have been killed since then were the victims of so-called “green on blue’’ attacks by renegade Afghan soldiers.
An AWM spokesman said today’s function had been cancelled “as a mark of respect for the (digger’s) family following the sad news this morning. The IEDs will be on display at some point in the future. The date of their display is yet to be confirmed’’.
The book, ‘Australian War Memorial: Treasures From A Century of Collecting’ by AWM acting director, Nola Anderson, goes on sale this week as planned.
The Australian Defence Force has invested millions of dollars and thousands of man hours in countering the IED threat since the war began.
Its’ front line of defence, the Australian designed and built Bushmaster battlefield transport with its V-shaped hull, has been 100 per cent effective in preventing fatalities aboard the vehicles.
Last night’s victim, a member of a dismounted patrol, was killed when an IED exploded while he was clearing a compound on the border of Uruzgan Province.
Regular ADF and special forces units in Afghanistan rely on dogs for additional security. Special Operations Task Group units include Special Operations Military Working Dogs who are trained to detect enemy positions and equipment.
Two of these dogs, Belgian Shepherds Quake and Devil, were killed in separate incidents earlier this year. It is not known if any SOMWDs were involved in last night’s incident.
In the last 18 months the ADF has introduced new body armour for its troops, the tiered body armour system or TBAS, and in June last year the Government announced a $20 million joint Defence and industry program to develop an even better product.
Defence also has a dedicated Counter IED task force headed by Afghanistan combat veteran Brigadier Wayne Budd.
While Brigadier Budd could not be reached for comment yesterday, he has previously told Fairfax his mission is to track down and eliminate the IED makers and to come up with ways to make their weapons redundant.
His task force uses CSI-type technology to identify and track the work of the Taliban’s best bomb makers. The bad ones don’t count. “They blow themselves up,’’ he said. “Making IEDs is a very Darwinian process.’’