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28 - 29 November 2018 Grand Hall, Olympia, London 

International Security Expo

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28 - 29 November 2018
London Olympia

Defeating the Ultimate Mowing Machine

04 Oct 2017 by: Philip Ingram

Defeating the Ultimate Mowing Machine

“Protective barriers saved the lives of school children in the attack at Westminster this year,” said Paul Barnard from the City of London Police at the recent ASIS 2017 event in Texas. So, what is being done to mitigate what seems to be an ever-increasing threat from vehicle borne terror attacks? Philip Ingram has a look for HQ Magazine.

So far this year, there have been 11 vehicle borne attacks in 6 countries resulting many dead and injured.  It seems that a vehicle is becoming the weapon of popular choice and has been ever since Al Qaeda referred to them in an article in their ‘Inspire’ magazine in 2010, as the ‘Ultimate Mowing Machine’. 

Vasco Amador from Global Intelligence Insight who track online terrorist activity said, “ISIS and other extremist groups are actively encouraging supporters to use anything as a weapon and carry out attacks; it is certain more attacks using vehicles will happen.”

The terror use of vehicles as a weapon was brought to the fore in the 2010 article but the first use in the UK was when Fusilier Lee Rigby was hit by a car before being butchered by Michael Adebolajo, and Michael Adebowale, both of whom were associated with Al Qaeda.

Extremists are adept at picking soft targets in crowded places as we saw in London, Barcelona, Nice, Berlin, Stockholm, Paris and more, some can be protected by increasing fixed anti vehicle infrastructure such as bollards or specialist architectural barriers.  Some areas do not lend themselves to permanent fixed structures. 

Ian Crosby, Marketing Director Perimeter Protection at Heras, the Dutch barrier manufacturer said, “The problem is complex and we don’t just want to repackage some of our existing products and sell them as something new so we are examining the issue and thinking of new and innovative capabilities.” He added; “we would love to sit down with the cities who have been victims of these atrocities and help develop appropriate solutions.”

The attacks have brought an older technology to the fore, developed by the UK innovation giant QinetiQ, their XNet, originally developed in 2006, was recently deployed in London by the Metropolitan Police to protect a parade by active-duty sailors and naval veterans in the Whitehall.  The MET have the XNet as part of their Hostile Vehicle Mitigation (HVM) arsenal they call “Talon”.

XNet can be deployed by 2 people and has the ability to stop a 17 tonne truck.  It looks like a giant police stinger attached to a net and barbed spikes in the leading edge of the net pierce the front tires, then the net envelops the tires and is pulled tight under the vehicle to stop the wheels and halt the vehicle in a non-lethal manner.

Another, this time new and innovative product, has just been launched on the market by the Mersey based ATG access.  Called ‘Surface Guard,’ it has been designed to protect pedestrians from targeted vehicle attacks and is tested to the IWA 14 standard. The surface guard system has successfully arrested a 2,500kg vehicle travelling at 30 mph.  

What is special about the systems is that it is modular in design and compact and easy to store.  In addition, it is lightweight and quick to deploy, no heavy machinery is required to install the system.  One beauty is that four men can close off a roadway using the surface guard system in under an hour and then remove the system even more quickly without damaging the road surface. 

Mark Clegg, managing director of ATG Access, described the technology as, “a huge leap forward in the technology for the event security sector and helps keep operational disruption to a minimum.”

Steve Bailes, business development manager at the West Midlands based Zaun Ltd described how dealing with such threats “reinforced the time-honoured attitude to effective security, namely the ‘onion skin’ approach.  Successive ‘rings of security’ should seek to deter, detect, deny, delay and defend vulnerable areas. The rings include physical protection, such as fences, HVM products, CCTV and electronic sensors.  But it also requires a holistic approach incorporating intelligence, policing and other security forces.  Critically, today, it requires public vigilance and information.”

He added, “London has already made progress with protecting today’s ‘public realm environment’ by re-engineering certain roads and installing strategic bollards and street furniture, sometimes not apparently HVM product, to break up ‘raceways’ and provide ‘safe areas’ to which the public can flee for sanctuary.”

Zaun manufacture the mesh, fencing panels, posts, clamp bars and fixings we often see securing temporary sites and emphasise how important it is to ensure all products comply with the latest PAS68 and PAS69 and/or ASTM International standards. 

Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt said, "Steal a lorry or a car and then drive it into a crowd.  That seems to be the latest terrorist method."  It is cheap, available, effective and very difficult to defeat, what is clear is the “mowing machine” threat is now ever present.


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