Army launches $49.5 million anti-IED challenge

Twenty contractor teams will compete in a program to detect and identify explosives planted in culverts.

IED in a culvert

The Army has selected 20 contractor teams to compete for work under a $49.5 million contract intended to develop technologies for detecting improvised explosive devices in and around roadside culverts.

The Army Research Lab and the Joint Improvised Explosive Devices Defeat Organization are looking for innovative technologies for detecting and identifying IEDs placed in or around culverts, in tunnels under roadways and around roadway craters, according to the original solicitation, which was issued in March.

Culverts, which allow for water flow under and around roads, are a common spot for remotely triggered IEDs planted by terrorists. More than 17,000 IED incidents were reported in Afghanistan in 2012, and protecting against them has proved problematic. The military spent $32 million starting in 2009 with an Afghan contractor for “culvert denial systems”—metal grates that block the openings—but a July 2013 report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said many of the devices were installed improperly or never installed at all, and may have contributed to the deaths of U.S. soldiers.

The companies selected for the contract will compete this fall in the Culvert Denial Challenge at Fort Benning, Ga. There will be two competitions, each with 10 companies—a surveillance challenge and an inspection challenge. The 20 teams taking part actually represent 18 companies, since two of them—Applied Research Associates and QinetiQ—will compete in both events. After the challenge event, the Army expects to award task orders over a five-year period.

The companies awarded the contracts have experience in sensor or robotics technologies. They are:

  • Advanced Reconnaissance
  • Applied Research Associates
  • A-T Solutions
  • CyPhy Works
  • L-3 Communications
  • Primal Innovation
  • QinetiQ,
  • Robo-Team NA
  • Advanced Technology Systems Co.
  • iRobot
  • K2 Solutions
  • Lockheed Martin Procerus Technologies
  • Robo-Team NA
  • Stolar Research
  • Science and Engineering Services
  • Pearson Engineering