Tightening the net

The X-Net, a UK-built device capable of bringing suspect cars to a complete halt, is to be deployed in Iraq following successful use by the US Marine Corps in Haiti.

As The Engineer exclusively revealed last year the device, developed by Qinetiq, is based on a portable spiked net which wraps itself around a vehicle’s wheels and axle, and can bring a range of vehicles to a standstill within 75m.

The X-Net is now being prepared for use in Iraq, where cars are increasingly being used by terrorists to attack US and UK forces or vulnerable buildings.

Following US trials, the Department of Defence has purchased around 250 of the latest X-Net, capable of halting light trucks and small military vehicles.

The device was used for the first time in Haiti in April, where it successfully brought to a standstill a taxi that had failed to stop at a checkpoint near Port-au-Prince, said Phil Dandy, X-Net project leader at Qinetiq. ‘There had previously been a serious incident at the site, and the Marines used the net as a less lethal option, and saved the driver’s life,’ he said.

A large number of the 250 devices purchased by the DoD are already in Iraq, while others are due to undergo further environmental testing in extreme climactic conditions.

Qinetiq is also advising the US Air Force on the use of the X-Net for perimeter security at its bases, and last week held a trial in which two of the devices joined together successfully stopped a seven tonnes truck. The USAF is also investigating the possibility oflaying an X-Net all the way across a 40m-wide runway, to close off vehicle access and protect aircraft, said Dandy.

The French military is also undertaking trials of the device, and the Australian government has signaled its intention to carry out tests, he added.

The X-Net is made of a material called Dyneema, an extremely strong polyethylene used by fishing trawlers and to anchor supertankers, developed by Dutch group DSM. The device can be quickly laid out on the road in front of oncoming vehicles, and prevents them from moving forwards or backwards, and also punctures their tyres.

Qinetiq is also involved in an ongoing process to have the device approved by the Police Scientific Development Branch to allow its use by UK police forces. ‘Police users don’t actually need to have X-Net approved by the PSDB before they can use it, but many forces feel a bit cautious about taking up a completely new device such as this and using it without approval,’ said Dandy.

An anti-terrorist diver detection system developed by Qinetiq is to undergo trials by the US Navy this summer. The Cerberus 360 uses sonar to detect individual divers at a range of around800m, and a single unit could be used to provide 360º protection for a ship.

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