As part of the Senior Managers Course (see article in this issue) conducted by the Mine Action Information Center during the summer of 2005, representatives from international mine action organizations had the opportunity to see the latest demining equipment demonstrations at Virginia's Fort A.P. Hill. Watching from the bleachers in the mid-summer heat, the participants saw demonstrations highlighting over a dozen pieces of demining equipment ranging from detection to neutralization technologies. Their visit was hosted by the U.S. Department of Defense Humanitarian Demining Research and Development Program from the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate at Fort Belvoir, Va., as part of the Department of Defense Demining Research and Development Program Requirements Workshop. Below are some of the highlights from the day-long presentation.
The Rotary Mine Comb.
One of the first to show off its capabilities was the Rotary Mine Comb. Designed to be mounted on a commercial agricultural tractor, the RMC is a mechanical anti-tank mine clearer that can be operated manually or by remote control. Two rotors with four tines counter-rotate and dig into the ground, gently lifting and moving mines from the path of the vehicle. Because the RMC is armored, it is capable of handling large anti-tank mines. Depending on the type of soil in the mined area, the RMC is reliable to 99.5 percent to excavate to 30 centimeters (12 inches) below the surface in heavy sod and 40 centimeters (16 inches) in lighter soils. With an estimated cost of $88,000 (U.S.), the RMC will be sent to HALO Trust in 2006 for use in Angola or Afghanistan.
Similar to the Rotary Mine Comb, the Tantra is designed for mechanical mine and vegetation clearance. The Tantra removes vegetation in hard-to-reach areas, making it useful in developing countries where roads are often less accessible. Reaching out from the vehicle is a 4.5-meter-long (15 feet) arm with a flail head that quickly clears vegetation and tripwires. The Tantra can obtain speeds up to 40 kilometers per hour (25 miles per hour) and is built to withstand the explosion of an anti-personnel mine.
After a quick stop under the military tent for cold water and sunscreen, participants progressed to the next site, where the NEMESIS was demonstrated. The NEMESIS, a manually or remote-controlled system, is designed specifically for detection and neutralization of anti-tank and anti-personnel landmines. It has a robotic platform for safe operation and capabilities for other quick-to-attach tools. A detection platform, backhoe, unexploded ordnance surface-clearance attachments, small munitions disrupter and box rake make it a multi-function tool.
Also used for detection is the HD-HSTAMIDS. The Humanitarian
Demining-Handheld Standoff Mine Detection System appears to be a
simple metal detector, but it is capable of high-tech
HD-HSTAMIDS. mine detection. Combining electro-magnetic induction with ground-penetrating radar, the HSTAMIDS sends the deminer a signal when detecting a mine and is designed to reject the false detection of clutter. This handheld mine detector is capable of detecting all metallic and non-metallic anti-tank and anti-personnel mines. With a distinct signal depending on the item located, the deminer is able to increase effectiveness and speed by not stopping for clutter resulting from false alarms. Those who had experience with other types of handheld mine detectors were impressed with this time-saving feature. Participants were given a chance to try the detector and also appreciated its light weight of 10 pounds. The HSTAMIDS is currently used by the U.S. Army in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Following a morning of field demonstrations, the group moved to a sheltered area for a neutralization and detonation presentation. John Fasulo and Divyakant L. Patel, members of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command's Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate at Fort Belvoir, Va., introduced several neutralization items.
NMX foam, or nitromethane explosive foam, neutralizes landmines close or equal to their maximum detonation rate on the ground, above the ground (such as mines attached to trees) and in hard-to-reach areas. The process of mixing nitromethane and hydrocarbons (propane and isobutene) results in chemical compound capable of producing an explosive. Contained in two aerosol cans, both components are highly flammable liquids but do not become explosive until combined and sprayed on the main charge of the mine. Because each kit of NMX foam costs less than $20, this neutralizer is cost-effective for most mine programs.
These demonstrations gave mine action workers from around the world an opportunity to see the latest developments. Many hoped to be able to influence their own demining organizations to bring this technology home.
*All photos by MAIC.
Sarah Sensamaust graduated from the University of Virginia with a Bachelor of Arts in international relations and a concentration in African studies. She spent time studying and living in west Africa as part of her degree. Sarah now lives in Keezletown, Va., with her husband and a little cat named Sergio.
Editorial Asstant, MAIC
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