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The current threat environment of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) concealed on persons, in vehicles, and in the mail poses challenges for traditional explosive detection measures.

Around the world, security forces have depended on dogs to protect critical infrastructure, supply chains, and transportation assets. Specialised teams consisting of a trained K9 and a skilled handler are deployed to search for and detect explosives at static checkpoints and roving patrols. An article in tries to answer the question whether k9 dog detection squads are still the best option in an evolving frontline environment.

While these teams have been effective, they have significant limitations as dogs require intense training, expensive kennel facilities, quarantine for international travel, specialised food, and water. In certain environments, such as extreme heat and humidity, a K9’s attention span and effectiveness may be reduced.

Explosive detection technologies such as X-ray and bulk visualisation equipment can fill a variety roles by using screening and minimally invasive processes The same devices may also be equipped to identify the specific material. And new technologies now allow for the detection of trace amounts of explosives.

In general, K9s can only be trained to detect approximately ten different odors effectively, while some detection technologies, on the other hand, can detect a much wider range of threats including numerous types of explosives, toxic industrial chemicals, and even narcotics.

Some technologies, such as Raman spectroscopy devices, are equipped with threat libraries allowing them to identify hundreds or even thousands of hazardous substances and are modifiable and expandable with simple software updates.

Today, IEDs are a common and prevalent threat worldwide. They can be composed of commercial, military, or homemade explosives, or military ordnance and ordnance components concealed within various spaces.

As terrorist elements around the world continue to deploy IEDs as their most deadly weapon of choice in today’s battlespace, numerous explosive detection solutions are increasingly fielded in transport hubs such as airport and seaports, and by security forces, to detect explosives threats at high-value locations.

Handheld and desktop Explosive Thread Detection (ETD) systems have proven to be the most operationally valuable equipment for modern security forces in detecting and defeating IEDs. The latest generation of ETD solutions offer an attractive solution to augment K9 assets, and in certain situations replace their use entirely.

Using particulate and vapour ETD in concert is a valuable capability, and many security forces are acquiring ETD technologies which such dual functionality, allowing them to field both solutions in one handheld toolbox.

ETD devices require minimal consumable resources to operate, have a lower operating cost and lower total cost of ownership, require little operator training, have no break-in period, and can be easily transported and replaced. In certain parts of the world, ETD screening may be less culturally disruptive than the introduction of K9 assets.