Issue 7.3, December 2003
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The MineWolf Toolbox System: Ground Preparation to Mine Clearance

The MineWolf Toolbox System, which operates in minefields near Sarajevo, is a mine clearance device that has been used to improve efficiency and effectiveness in demining operations. This article discusses the benefits of the MineWolf Toolbox System and compares it to other demining machines and technology currently used to clear minefields.

by Heinz Rath, Project Manager, STS

Introduction

MineWolf is a joint German-Swiss mine clearance concept developed through the collaboration of an industrial machinery manufacturer based in Herdwangen, Germany (the AHWI), RUAG Land Systems, based in Thun, Switzerland, and the Safety Technology System (STS) in Germany. In our detailed discussions with the Mine Action Centre (MAC) in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) as well as in Croatia, we learned that the emphasis of future demining activities is on the large areas of minefields and suspected fields. Croatia has 1,630 sq km of suspected areas with approximately 700,000 mines and items of UXO, and BiH has 2,000 sq km of suspected areas. The ratio of suspected fields to mined fields is about 10:1. Obviously, demining these areas is a challenge that can only be met with the use of improved mechanical demining machines (in terms of cost and time). We asked the users, the MACs and the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) whether today’s technology met their requirements, and have come to the conclusion that today’s tiller or flail machines need to be improved.

Performance Comparison of Today’s Mechanical Demining Systems

The present tiller systems are too heavy (up to 55 tons), too large in size (tank size) and too expensive, with high operational costs and limited mobility. The high operational costs are the result of AT mine blasts that occur next to the tiller, which lead to damage to both the tiller and the machine. The flail system avoids the disadvantages of high weight and cost. AT mines explode far in front of the machine, and the blast can expand through the chains, resulting in a reduced impact on the machine. In addition, the ground-beating equipment is easy to replace if damaged. However, the flail machine suffers from limited demining depth, problems with vegetation and the need for intensive quality assurance (QA) with manual/dog demining.

The MineWolf System.

The MineWolf System

Clearance Methodology

Clearance of mixed AP/AT minefields is divided into two phases. First, the flail system detonates or breaks up the AP and AT mines. Then, with a ground penetration depth of 30 cm, the tiller system breaks up the remaining intact mines and reduces the size of components left by the flail.

Description of MineWolf Technology

MineWolf Technology combines the strengths of the flail and tiller systems to create a more efficient and effective demining system. The following list describes some of the important characteristics of the MineWolf System.

The MineWolf is a multi-purpose part of the demining toolbox.

Specifications for the Use of Mechanical Demining Machines in BiH for Survey Areas

The Bosnia and Herzegovina Mine Action Centre (BHMAC) has released the standard operating procedure SOP-14. In chapter 4, on page 3/16, the specification reads as follows:

“The basic Bosnia and Herzegovina Standard layout for a machine is as follows: machine with technical and other characteristics proved through testing, which is capable of removing vegetation and disturbing the soil to the minimum of 10 cm into the depth, breaking it to pieces not larger than five cm in diameter, presents the adequate quality that is achieved by using the prodder (minimum 10 cm in depth), or the detector, which is supposed to locate the minimum metal content mine to 10 cm into the depth (PMA-3). Provided these characteristics might be used at suspect areas for which there is no reliable data on mining, the BH Standard in Chapter XIV—Mechanical Preparation of the Ground—proposes these areas (entire or partially) to be declared as areas without obvious risk, provided there were no explosions or visible mines thrown out on the surface or their parts. Such areas would not be further threatened, while the demining resources might be deployed at other mined areas.”

Flail machines, as used today, do not meet these requirements and are therefore only to be used as ground preparation machines. The MineWolf, with its rough (flail) and fine (tiller) operation, has the potential to meet the specifications and may be considered for survey operation as a mine-clearing machine. The MineWolf can be used as a mechanical detection system to mark the edges of the minefield and thus, achieve area reduction. 

Experience has proven that during demining mines can be destroyed without exploding; AP and AT mines with plastic cases can burst into pieces but not explode. Fuses and pieces of TNT may still be left. PROMS with steel bodies also might not be completely destroyed. The partially destroyed mines remain as a residual risk. In the discussion about the danger of these residues, the following proposals should be considered:

All these methods would drastically reduce time and cost compared with today’s practise of 100 percent survey with man/dog on survey fields.

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