A spectral sensing method with sufficient sensitivity to detect vapors of low vapor-pressure compounds such as explosives would have great promise for defense and security applications. An opportunity is Intracavity Laser Absorption Spectroscopy (ICLAS) at IR wavelengths. Our approach is based on multi-mode external-cavity quantum cascade lasers and a scanning Fabry-Perot spectrometer to analyze the laser mode spectrum in the presence of a narrow band intracavity absorber. This paper presents results of numerical solution of laser rate equations that support feasibility of kilometer effective active-cavity path lengths and sensitivity to concentrations of 10 ppb. This is comparable to the saturated vapor pressure of TNT. System design considerations and first experimental results are presented at 10 and 70 μm wavelengths.© (2010) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.