Better late than never.

Years after the U.S. and allied countries officially withdrew combat troops from Iraq, and as they're beginning to wind down their mission in Afghanistan, Raytheon (NYSE: RTN) says its U.K. subsidiary has invented a better system for detecting improvised explosive devices, or IEDs -- roadside bombs, as they're more commonly known.

In cooperation with Loughborough University's Laser Optical Engineering, Raytheon U.K. announced the development of a new Stand-Off Improvised Explosive Device Detection and Confirmation Technology that the partners are calling Soteria.

Mounted within a mobile vehicle, Soteria, says Raytheon, utilizes "innovative optical processing technology" to provide a viewer a high definition picture of an IED's shape, size, orientation, and exact location. This permits the user to detect and identify IEDs from a safe distance, permitting sending in a bomb disposal team that knows what it's getting into.

And even if IEDs become less of an omnipresent threat to U.S. and allied forces after they exit Afghanistan, Raytheon notes that the Soteria system can work just as well to clear minefields in other places around the world, and to deal with other "new threats in future theatres of war." It may even have applications in disaster relief -- identifying victims, rather than bombs, covered by the rubble of a fallen building for example.

In this regard, at least, the advent of the new technology really is better to get late, than never.

Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Raytheon. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.