Accurate and timely detection of explosives, energetic materials, and their associated compounds would provide
valuable information to military commanders in a wide range of military operations: protection of fast moving
convoys from mobile or static IED threats; more deliberate countermine and counter-IED operations during
route or area clearance; and static roles such as hasty or deliberate checkpoints, critical infrastructure protection
and support to public security.
The detection of hidden explosive hazards is an extremely challenging problem, as evidenced by the fact that
related research has been ongoing in many countries for at least seven decades and no general purpose solution
has yet been found. Technologies investigated have spanned all major scientific fields, with emphasis on the
physical sciences, life sciences, engineering, robotics, computer technology and mathematics.
This paper will present a limited, operationally-focused overview of the current status of detection technologies.
Emphasis will be on those technologies that directly detect the explosive hazard, as opposed to those that
detect secondary properties of the threat, such as the casing, associated wires or electronics. Technologies that
detect explosives include those based on nuclear radiation and terahertz radiation, as well as trace and biological
detection techniques. Current research areas of the authors will be used to illustrate the practical applications.