2.1 The basic elements of mechanical systems

    The front cover of this volume shows a Bedford van, not as a simple metal box, but as a collection of complex interconnected parts. To do real damage to any system this is how you must look at the target of the hit - a collection of vulnerable parts.

    An earth mover, for example, is not a simple machine. It is a complex system comprising...

    • Mechanical systems with moving parts, hinges, cables and bearings;
    • Engines, using petrol or diesel as a fuel, which provide power to the whole system;
    • Electric motors which convert electrical energy into mechanical motion, or turn compressors or pumps to move fluids;
    • Hydraulic and pneumatic systems which develop the large forces necessary to drive the machines excavators;
    • Electric systems which run lights, valves and the control instrumentation;
    • 'Static' devices, not directly involved in the main system, such as locks, radios/communications equipment, and security systems.

    All these elements come together to 'create' that which we call an 'earth mover'. Therefore, to effectively disable, or preferable write-off the subject of the hit, you need to have a working knowledge of each of the individual systems. The alternative would be to learn about the system itself - a standard JCB for example, But learning about the principles of how these machines work in general is preferable because the knowledge is more easily applied to any situation you may encounter.

    In terms on machines in general, when you conduct your scoping exercise while planning the hit, or while you assess the 'problem' when you are first presented with the system you wish to disable, you should ask yourself a simple series of questions...

    1. Where does the power come from [the source]? (e.g., electrical, engines, electric motors, etc.);
    2. How is the power moved around [the conduit]? (e.g., electrical cables, mechanical rods/shafts, hydraulic or pneumatic systems);
    3. Where is power expended [the sink]? (e.g., hydraulic rams, electric motors, mechanical arms or electrical components);
    4. How is the movement or conversion of power regulated [control systems]? (e.g., valves, control panels, switches or automated computer controllers)
    5. Does the operation of these parts involve lubricating or cooling of devices? (e.g., engine oil sump, pipes delivering lubricating fluid, chillers/refrigerators, air cooling or water cooling)

    By systematically taking these five criteria, and applying them to your system (with practice it will become second nature) you will be able to identify the key parts of the system, and hence the key weaknesses. You can then plan the appropriate steps and requisition the appropriate tools with which to carry out the hit.

    For example, in an earth mover, the major mechanical parts are built of extremely tough materials because they must survive in a harsh environment, under extreme load conditions. For this reason taking on the arms of the machine, or cutting its hydraulic system, causes little real damage. On the other hand, the fact that the entire system relies on the provision of power from one diesel engine means that by taking out that engine, using grinding powder in the sump or ball bearings in the cylinders, you deny power to the system. On the other hand a complex manufacturing plan may rely on computerised control systems, in which case damaging these is more effective than removing the power supply, or damaging individual parts of the machines.

    2.2 Power sources

    All mechanisms need energy to function. This energy can be derived from a number of sources...

    • Electrical energy: Electricity supplied in cables, or in more complex systems, which may be generated from other energy sources within the system;
    • Electrical potential energy: This is really a category used to differentiate supplied electrical energy from electrical energy stored electrical energy. There are many systems, from computers to industrial plants and road vehicles, that rely on the storage of energy within some form of battery to help them operate. Batteries contain 'potential' energy because it does not actually exist as electrical current, but rather as charges on the atoms of chemical compound which are release as part of chemical reactions;
    • Chemical energy: Fuels which contain energy, such as petrol, diesel, and methane or propane gas, can be utilised within machines as a heat source, or within engines as a source of kinetic energy;
    • Kinetic energy: Kinetic basically means movement - that is the turning of drive shafts or the push/pull of connecting roads. Many pulled units, farm machinery is the main example, are powered by kinetic energy supplied by a drive shaft which plugs into the tractor's engine (this is called a Power Take-Off [PTO]).

    Denying the source of energy to any system is the most effective way of shutting it down - but sometimes this is only a temporary setback for the operator...

    • Destroying or removing the battery from a system is only temporary because batteries are easily replaced;
    • Removing the electrical supply by cutting cables is very temporary as cables can be replaced in a day. Even a mains trunk cable can be repaired in just one or two days;
    • Removing fuel from the system is very temporary - you only have to fill up the machine again, or new supplied can be ordered or bought the same day.

    It is therefore obvious that cutting energy sources is only effective when it includes other forms of damage. For example, rather then just spiking or removing the fuel from a generator, it is always advisable to do serious damage to the generator itself.

    However, removing power supplies really comes into its own when speed of action is necessary. For example, all petrol stations have a little box on the wall marked, "petrol pumps switch off here". This enables the fire brigade to turn off power to the pumps in the event of a fire or spillage. It also means that smashing this box, or cutting the cables, disables all equipment on the station forecourt - this is much faster and easier than trying to damage each pump or cut every pipe.

    Safety when cutting power cables (figure 2)

    2fig-02.gif, 4kB

    The only precaution must be to ensure your safety. Any source of energy is capable of imparting energy to you when you damage it - that can be fatal. To solve this problem there are simple steps you can take.

    Electrical supplies:

    Electrical cables should be isolated at the fuse box before cutting. If this is not possible, use tools with a long insulated handle - such as an

    axe. If in doubt you need to connect a thick copper wire - preferable coated in plastic - to the tool you are using, and then connect the other end to a large metal object embedded in the ground (such as a fence post) or the 'earth' plug of a wall socket (see diagram above). This will make the electricity earth to ground via the wire rather than you. As a precaution, you should also wear thick rubber gloves - for example the type you use for washing up.

    Where voltages higher than 415 volts are involved, no amount of earthing will ensure your safety - splashes of molten metal from the arc generated when the cables are cut can also injure you. For this reason you should consider other measure such as burning through the cable with an incendiary compound (see 'combustion' section).


    The batteries on conventional cars or lorries are relatively safe. The main danger comes from the acid they contain. The risk with these batteries is when they are on charge because they give off highly explosive hydrogen gas. Cutting one cable at a time, and then removing the battery is quite a straightforward process, but a spark near an open cell could initiate a fire.

    Large battery arrays, such as those found on electric milk-floats and other electric vehicles, present a danger because of the sheer amount of electrical current they are able to generate. If you short the cables you will get a small explosion as the current melts and fuses the metal in the cables. In extreme circumstances, it may also cause other parts of the electrical installation to short out - perhaps explosively if electrical 'capacitors' are involved - and catch fire. Again, the basic instruction is disconnect one terminal or cut only one stand of the cable at a time. If the cable is 'multi-core' - that is there is more than one stand of wire within it, strip off some of the electrical insulation with a Stanley knife and cut one strand of wire at a time.

    Again, where large battery arrays are involved with voltages greater than 24 volts, it is a good idea to earth the tool you are using if the only option is to cut rather than disconnect cables.


    Most fuels are volatile - that is they burn readily with only minor ignition sources such as bright lights, heat or sparks. Petrol, gases and some solvents (such as acetone) fall in this category. Other fuels such as paraffin or diesel are more difficult to ignite.

    There are three tactics with fuels - spiking, disconnection or removal:

    • Spiking involves the addition of substances to make the fuel burn under extreme conditions. Adding sugar or syrup to fuel produced large amounts of carbon which block the cylinders and valves of engines. On the other hand adding a litre or two of acetone to the fuel tank of a car, if it doesn't dissolve the pipes or the carburettor float first, causes the cylinder temperatures to rise to the point where pistons or cylinder vales melt and fuse;
    • Disconnection - basically means that you cut the fuel line. This in itself can cause great problems because by cutting the line the fuel escapes to cause pollution, or it covers you. There are a number of alternatives. You could close off valves in the fuel lines and then superglue them shut (it's generally not a good idea to solder or weld a fuel line!). The other option, which applies to metal fuel lines, is to crimp them shut using pliers. It is possible to use a hammer (sometimes the blunt end of a chisel or screwdriver proves an effective tool to use) to flatten the fuel line at two points, but this may cause the contents to ignite. If you crimp the fuel line in two places, and then cut the line in between the two, the fuel should not escape.
    • Removal - quite simply, just take the stuff away.

    Drive shafts/PTOs:

    By the very fact that they carry large amounts of energy (the technical term is 'torque'), drive shafts and PTOs are constructed of very hard and tough materials. This makes them very difficult things to cut, bend, or generally damage. However, almost all drive shafts rely on bearings and rotating joints to keep them turning efficiently. You should therefore attack the joints and bearings rather than the shaft itself.

    The simplest way to damage a baring is to inject grinding powder, suspended in lubricating oil or grease, into the bearing. Over the course of a few hours this reworks the running surfaces and makes everything a little more 'loose'. With universal joints, if you can bang out one of the spindles on which the joint pivots then you can disconnect the drive shaft.

    The other option is to unbalance the drive shaft. As the shaft rotates very quickly, and the shaft is very heavy, it must be in perfect balance along the axis of rotation. Any deviation causes the drive shaft to vibrate. If you add weight to just one side of the drive shaft - by strapping a weight around one side of it - the vibration could damage the bearings and joints before the operator notices. On larger shafts there are actually small weights which screw in and out of the shaft to vary the balance. Screwing the weights fully in on one side, and fully out on the other, will perform the same function as strapping a weight to the shaft. It also helps if you superglue the bolts too.

    Alternatively - and this works very well with the propeller shafts of boats - just connect a length of steel cable to the shaft, and wrap it around the shaft. With luck, especially in enclosed spaces, the cable will snarl up and unbalance the shaft. However, you should always make sure that the rotating cable will not injure someone - a cable rotating at speed can be lethal.

    Finally, with the PTOs of tractors or construction plant, if the drive shaft is not connected, just try and jam up the connection socket. The best way to do this is to melt solder onto the surfaces of the socket using a blowtorch - but don't forget to clean the metal surfaces of grease and rust using petrol or solvent, and then burning the residue off with the blowtorch, before you start, or the solder won't stick.

    2.3 Power conduits

    After power has been produced from the source, it must be moved around to where the work needs doing. There are a number of ways this can happen...

    • Electrical power is moved along cables, through a series of switches, fuses and control instrumentation;
    • Where pressurised fluids or gases are used, pipes and vales regulate the flow of fluid to its destination;
    • Where kinetic energy is involved, gear, shafts and tension cables (steel cables, rubber/canvas drive belts or rope) transmit the energy;
    • Especially where telecommunications equipment is concerned, the 'information' can be carries as light within fibre optic cables, or as a radio wave within coaxial cables.

    Essentially, what we are trying to do here is severe the flow of energy along the conduit. With electrical, communications or fluid cables this is simple - just cut it. But you should beware when cutting fluid cables in case the fluid or gas in the pipe is still under pressure. Again with electrical cables, as outlined above in relation to electrical sources, you should make sure that the cable is not live before you cut it, or take appropriate steps to protect yourself when cutting.

    Thew problem here is that cables and pipe are relatively easy things to replace, relatively quickly. They are also relatively cheap. What we must do, in order to create the greatest expense and delay, is to damage or remove those parts of the system which control the flow of energy through the conduit:

    • With electrical cables, switches, fuses, instrumentation and electromechanical relays all act to channel the flow of energy. By damaging these items you can disable a piece of equipment while repairs are made. With very specialised equipment, spares will not be readily available either. The key items to hit are relays, switches, and most importantly gauges, computers or programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and instrument panels;
    • With hydraulic systems, the pipes are nearly always reinforced with hardened steel, making them very difficult to cut without very large and expensive bolt-cutters. The simple method is to drill the pipe, or even better, smash the valves which control the flow of the fluid. On basic mechanically controlled systems the valves are controlled by levers, so you should just rip off the levers, and perhaps smash the valve housing. On electromechanical systems electrically powered relays operate the vales. These are quite easy to disable because you can rip out the electrical cables, but more importantly, you should try and remove the 'solenoid' (the electrical coil and magnet) mounted on the top of the valve (easily identified as the electrical cable is plugged/connected into it);
    • With pneumatic systems, the pipes are not normally reinforced, but the system is controlled by the same type of valves as hydraulic systems, so the same rules apply;
    • With telecommunications systems, just cut the coaxial or fibre-optic cables, but you should try to access the transmitter units and smash them, or rip off any visible transmitter antennae. Alternatively, with coaxial cables, just fire a few dozen staples into the cable. The short circuit may damage the output transistors of the transmitter;
    • Kinetic/mechanical systems are more difficult. Drive shafts, as explained above, are difficult to damage, but they are susceptible if they have exposed bearings or rotating joints. The best place to damage any mechanical system is at the gearbox - just fill it with sand, or better still, grinding powder. If the gearbox does not contain an kind of lubricating fluid, fill it with epoxy 'potting compound', effectively sealing the moving the parts in a block of hard plastic. Drive belts can be a problem. Smaller ones are easily cut as they are generally rubber with a canvas reinforcement. Larger ones, and things like conveyor belts, have steel reinforcement and so tin snips, side cutters or bolt-cutters will be required. Hacksaws will work, but it can be slow going. With drive cables, such as those on cranes, the cable is normally made of tensile steel which is difficult to cut without heavy duty side cutters or bolt cutters. Hacksawing can take a long time.

    It must be stressed that the simplest and most direct method is to damage the control systems. Even on hydraulic systems, where the system relies on a pump, it is still more effective to take out the control systems because the pumps are so solidly made.

    2.4 Power sinks

    When the power has been moved to where the work takes place, it can be used. Energy can be expended in many ways - from the hook at the end of the winch cable that lifts the load, to the computer at the end of the mains cable. For this reason, there is no general approach to damaging the appliance to which power is supplied. In general it is possible to say this...

    • All electrical equipment should be damaged by hammering chisels/ screwdrivers into it, or if this is difficult pour acid or salted water inside it;
    • All mechanical equipment should be 'fouled up' using wire, dismantled using tools, filled with sand or grinding powder, or just filled up with quick setting epoxy 'potting compound';
    • All hydraulic/pneumatic appliances should have holes drilled in the cylinders.

    But when considering the above options, you should consider the time factors involved. Sometimes effectively taking out the power conduit or source will be as effective, but more importantly quicker, than trying to damage every part of the system that utilises the energy supplied to the system.

    2.5 Regulation

    The regulation of energy was noted above in relation to energy conduits. Without control systems, machines will not function. For example, why spend half an hour trying to get into the locked engine compartment of a earth mover when you can just smash through or remove the window of the cab, and smash, damage or remove all of the controls levers, switches and instrumentation?

    When taking on control and instrumentation panels there are a few general tips:

    • Any accessible electrical cables should be cut or ripped out. If you have a number of cables bound together or fixed in a 'loom', the simplest thing is to loop the mass of cables around a screwdriver or crowbar, and then twist around and around. As the cables twist and tighten on the bar, the tension will snap or rip them from their fixings;
    • Any gauges, displays or meters should be smashed. The best way to do this is to take a long, thin (about 3-4mm diameter), blunt screwdriver, and hammer it through the face of the dial. If it goes through easily, try again - unless you encounter resistance as you hammer it through you are not doing any damage;
    • Computers and PLCs should, if possible, be removed and disposed of in the nearest canal or ditch. If this is not possible you should take the same approach as that outlined for gauges and meters. If the construction does not allow you to hammer in the screwdriver, then use the wedge end of a crowbar and hammer it through using a lump hammer (if available);
    • Any key locks or key switches should be superglued;
    • Conventional switches or levers should have the arms broken off. You can do this with a hammer. Sometimes the levers and knobs are fixed in place by small screws in the handle - if this is the case just loosen the screw, pull of the handle, and get rid of it off the site. This then leaves the spindle which the knob or lever was fixed too - this is best broken off using a hammer and chisel. For push buttons there is only one simple solution - either hammer then button through the face of the control panel, or superglue it in place.

    However, sometimes there is just not time to do all of the above. In these cases the only (and ultimate) solution is to douse the control panel in petrol or diesel and torch it. This unfortunately attracts a lot of attention, and so you may with to use some sort of time-delay incendiary device to do this.

    2.6 Lubrication

    Finally, many mechanical systems require careful lubrication to keep friction and wear to a minimum. Many gearboxes, engines and drive shafts contain spindles, cogs and bearings which must be lubricated to keep friction to a minimum, and remove excess heat. There are two basic methods for working on lubricating systems:

    • Drain it: Drain the lubricating oil into a container (unless you are certain the oil will not cause pollution). Of course the operator will notice this, or the machine will indicate a low oil pressure, so this can only really work on a machine which is already running (in which case beware because the oil will be hot and under pressure), or a machine which you are sure you will be able to start up. If you cannot find or are unable to remove the plug in the oil sump, the simplest alternative is to drill a small hole through the sump using a hand or power drill.
    • Spike it: If you have access to the sump filler on the engine, gearbox, or the lubricating nipple on the baring, you can inject a mixture of oil and grinding powder into the machine. Grinding powder expensive, but especially on bearings, it is the only option because only a very fine power can be injected into the necessary space. However, on engines and gearboxes a cheaper option is sand.

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