Homeland Security

Dipole Might (DM)

The Dipole Might (DM) project, initiated in 1990, provided for the first comprehensive, scientific analysis of large scale (50 - 5,000 pounds) vehicle bombs. It is a multi-national endeavor which uses a computer-aided design program to analyze various effects of vehicle bomb blasts. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) sponsored a series of controlled vehicular explosions. The experiments have been carried out by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The nominal intent of the DM program was to familiarize BATF agents with truck bomb debris patterns and to calibrate the effect of vehicular explosions on a variety of materials and structures. The DM experiments have been heavily instrumented with diagnostic equipment.

Data generated to date from the Dipole Might project has assisted in the designing of the International Terminal at the San Francisco, California, International Airport, as well as assisting in the evaluation of the vulnerability of the construction of a new U.S. Secret Service building and Department of State embassy facilities. The Dipole Might project is extremely important to ensure that Federal and other public buildings are better able to withstand the effects of terrorist bombings in the future.

ATF, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Defense Special Weapons Agency have jointly conducted this multi-year research project to create a database of information and a protocol for investigating large-scale vehicle bombs. This project analyzes blast effects of large vehicle bombs to allow for a more effective deployment of investigative resources and quicker analysis of recovered evidence following bombing events such as the World Trade Center, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Dipole Might is funded by the National Security Council.

The objective of this project was to create a computerized data base and investigative protocol for the investigation of large scale vehicle bombs. The basic computer software is intended to be in a format useable by law enforcement agencies around the world in crime scene management and analysis. The data will be integrated into this retrievable system so that it can be displayed in a courtroom to aid in the prosecution of defendants, aid in the security design of buildings, improve security response procedures, assist law enforcement agencies in their investigations of bombing incidents, and contribute to further development of analytical models. Data acquired will include blast over-pressure, fragment distribution, fragment mass, and sample fragment trajectory.

The tests for this project were conceived using four of the most common roadbed types in the United States and explosive charges that varied in size from 50 pounds to 1,000 pounds and type from C4 to ANFO (C-4 to represent the effect of plastic explosives and ANFO for its common availability and use in terrorist devices). By repeating several surfaces with different explosive weights and types, more data is able to be gathered with fewer events.

The tests began in 1994 at DNA's White Sands Missile Range high explosives test site in New Mexico. ATF personnel with extensive post-blast experience were used to collect all data. The execution of the tests required careful measurement of ground zero for centering the explosive charge in the instrumental area, calibration of numerous monitoring devices, timing of the photographic and video recording devices, and placement of the explosive charge.

For the first eight tests, all vehicle fragments measuring larger than 2 by 3 inches were marked identified and each fragment location surveyed. These tests used only two types of vehicles, a Chevrolet Caprice 4-door sedan, and a Dodge B-300 series passenger van. These vehicles were chosen to simulate two commonly available vehicles and If their load carrying capacity. During the course of each event, data acquisition was accomplished through the Test Control Center at White Sands Missile Range. The recorded data was then analyzed by a team of engineers for accuracy.

Documentation of each event began with high speed photography and video. After each test, a complete crate profile was done by contract surveyors, and documented further with still photography. Additional still photographs were taken of significant and identifiable fragments. It became clear that there are significant repeatable trends in large scale vehicle bombs.

Given the fact that questions were raised by the 1980 OTA assessment of the pilot tagging program conducted between 1977 and 1979, the 1996 Treasury Department Study Group on the tagging of explosive materials for purposes of detection and identification determined to work with ATFs Dipole Might project to conduct preliminary testing of the survivability and retrievability of developed identification taggants placed in explosive materials.

However, the completion of the portion of the project that relates to AN was delayed. A court-approved discovery agreement in the Oklahoma City bombing trial restricted ATFs participation in any tests involving more than 50 pounds of AN in any improvised explosive devices. Compliance with this court-approved agreement has constrained ATF from participating in tests involving more than 50 pounds of AN to determine the survivability and retrievability of taggants in large AN explosions. As a result, the Dipole Might project is approximately 2 years behind schedule regarding AN testing.

From 1997 to 1999 the Dipole Might program did a multiyear study on vehicle bombs utilizing 50 to 1,000 pounds of explosives. In FY 2000 and FY2001 tests were from 1,000 to 2,000 pounds.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list