Last Updated on January 30, 2024 by Asfa Rasheed

Tactical breaching operations play a crucial role in ensuring the success of law enforcement and military missions. These operations require specialized equipment to help personnel gain access to secured areas, while minimizing the risk of injury and maintaining operational efficiency. As such, understanding the types of equipment used in tactical breaching is essential to comprehending their overall effectiveness and strategic importance.

One key aspect of tactical breaching operations is the utilization of mechanical, ballistic, and explosive tools. Mechanical breaching tools, such as battering rams and crowbars, facilitate forced entry by physically breaking or overcoming barriers. Ballistic breaching, on the other hand, employs firearms and ammunition to weaken or destroy locks and hinges. Explosive breaching, a more advanced technique, involves the use of controlled detonations to create entry points with precision and speed.

In addition to the aforementioned methods, tactical breaching also involves the use of specialized protective gear for the personnel involved. This may include items such as ballistic helmets, tactical gloves, and protective eyewear to ensure the safety of the team members during the operation. Through the proper employment of these various tools and equipment, tactical breaching operations can be executed effectively and with minimal risk to those involved.

The Basics Of Tactical Breaching Operations

Purpose of Breaching

Tactical breaching operations are conducted by law enforcement agencies, such as SWAT teams, and military units in order to gain access to a confined or fortified space. These operations are typically executed in high-pressure situations when lives are at risk, such as hostage rescue missions or to apprehend dangerous criminals or terrorists. Breaching techniques aim to achieve a rapid entry while minimizing potential harm to the team members.

Types of Breaching

There are four main types of breaching methodologies used in tactical operations, each with their specific equipment and techniques. These include mechanical, ballistic, explosive, and thermal breaching.

  1. Mechanical breaching: This method relies on manual or powered tools to force entry. Commonly used equipment includes:
    • Breaching hammers
    • Crowbars
    • Bolt cutters
    • Saws
  2. Ballistic breaching: This technique involves the use of firearms to create an entry point by compromising the structural integrity of a door or window. Frequently used weapons in ballistic breaching are:
    • Shotguns with breaching rounds
    • High-velocity rifles
  3. Explosive breaching: This high-risk method employs the use of controlled explosions to create an entry point. Training, safety, and precision are vital while handling explosives. Commonly used charges are:
    • Bang-poles
    • Linear-shaped charges
    • Water impulse charges
  4. Thermal breaching: This breaching method uses high-temperature tools to cut through metal barriers or doors. Typical equipment used in thermal breaching includes:
    • Cutting torches
    • Exothermic torches

Each type of breaching technique requires a thorough understanding of the equipment, the specific target, and the safety concerns for both the breaching team and the surrounding environment. By selecting the most appropriate breaching methodology and equipment, tactical teams are able to accomplish their objectives with minimal risk and maximum efficiency.

Breaching Equipment Classified by Task

Tactical breaching operations require specialized equipment to ensure a safe and efficient entry. This section classifies the common breaching tools based on their specific tasks.

Entry Tools

  1. Manual Tools: These include sledgehammers, bolt cutters, pry bars, and halligan bars. They are simple, reliable, and essential for any breaching operation.
  2. Mechanical Tools: These tools, such as hydraulic rams, focused impact tools, and circular saws, offer increased power and precision for breaching reinforced doors and other barriers.
  3. Ballistic Tools: Breaching shotguns are specialized firearms that use frangible projectiles to breach door locks, hinges, and other obstacles without producing dangerous fragments.

Obstacle Removal Tools

  1. Hooks and Grappling Devices: Designed to remove barricaded windows, curtain, and other obstructions.
  2. Saws and Cutters: Utilized for cutting through fences, wires, and other barriers to access a target location.
  3. Crowbars and Other Leverage Tools: Ideal for removing obstacles with minimal noise and property damage.

Breacher Hydrogel Tape

An innovative solution for explosive breaching, breacher hydrogel tape offers various benefits:

  • Safety: The tape prevents dangerous overpressure and minimizes flying debris.
  • Efficiency: It increases the effectiveness of the explosive charge by focusing the blast in a desired direction.
  • Adaptability: The hydrogel tape is easy to handle and can be applied to various surfaces.
  • Discreetness: The clear and flexible tape allows for a low-profile and discreet application.

Personal Protective Equipment in Breaching

Tactical breaching operations require specialized equipment to ensure the safety of the personnel involved. In this section, we will discuss the essential personal protective equipment (PPE) used in breaching operations, covering safety helmets, protective gloves, and eye and ear protection.

Safety Helmets

Safety helmets are a crucial component of PPE for breaching teams. They are designed to protect the head from impact, debris, and shrapnel. Breaching teams typically use ballistic helmets made from materials such as Kevlar, which provide a high level of protection without sacrificing mobility. These helmets may also feature:

  • Integrated NVG mounts: for attaching night vision goggles
  • Side rails: for attaching additional accessories, such as lights or cameras
  • Adjustable suspension systems: to ensure a secure and comfortable fit

Protective Gloves

During breaching operations, hands are frequently exposed to sharp objects, abrasive surfaces, and impact forces. Protective gloves are therefore essential for maintaining safety and dexterity. Breaching gloves should be:

  • Cut-resistant: to protect against sharp objects and debris
  • Padded: to absorb impact forces during manual breaching methods
  • Tactile: to maintain dexterity and fingertip control for the manipulation of tools and weapons Space between text Some common materials used for breaching gloves include Kevlar, leather, and synthetic fabrics with reinforced palms and fingers.

Eye and Ear Protection

In breaching operations, the risks of flying debris, loud noises, and bright flashes pose significant threats to the eyes and ears of breaching personnel. Thus, the use of appropriate eye and ear protection is essential.

Eye protection should meet the ANSI Z87.1 standard for impact resistance and may include features such as:

  • Anti-fog coating: to ensure clear vision in various environmental conditions
  • Tinted lenses: to reduce glare and enhance contrast in bright light
  • UV protection: to guard against damage from ultraviolet rays

Breaching operations often involve loud explosive or mechanical sounds, making ear protection vital. Breaching teams may use electronic earmuffs that provide the following features:

  • Noise reduction: to protect against loud noises and sudden blasts
  • Sound amplification: to maintain situational awareness by amplifying low-level ambient sounds
  • Ability to integrate with communication systems: to enable clear communication between breaching team members

Innovative Breaching Technologies

Robotics in Breaching Operations

The integration of robotics in breaching operations has revolutionized the way teams approach these challenging situations. By using remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), operators can safely and efficiently breach structures while minimizing the risk to personnel.

  • Reconnaissance robots: These small, agile machines provide real-time visual and audio feedback to operators, enabling them to better assess the situation and plan the most effective tactics for entry. Examples include the QinetiQ Dragon Runner and the iRobot 510 PackBot.
  • Breaching robots: These larger, more robust machines are equipped with tools for breaching doors, windows, and walls. They can perform various tasks such as breaking, cutting, or ramming, depending on the specific situation. The ABOT (Automated Breaching of Obstacles Technology) is a popular choice for breaching tasks.

Non-Explosive Breaching Equipment

In certain situations, the use of explosives is not feasible or desirable, making non-explosive breaching equipment a necessity. These devices offer tactical teams a range of options to gain entry while minimizing collateral damage and preserving the integrity of the structure.

Innovations in both robotics and non-explosive equipment are continuously changing the landscape of tactical breaching operations, providing teams with improved safety and efficiency to tackle various challenges. As technology advances, it is likely that we’ll witness even more sophisticated tools and techniques being developed to aid in this crucial aspect of urban warfare and law enforcement.