IED’s, Mines, Route Clearance and Talisman

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Two years ago (almost to the day) I wrote about the Talisman route clearance system that had been introduced with great fanfare in Afghanistan as part of the many faceted counter IED effort.

Although I have done a couple of updates from MoD news releases its time for a recap and new post with a wider remit.

I did hold off posting anything on current counter IED equipment for obvious reasons but as the controversy around Snatch Land Rovers led to a widespread awareness of the issue the MoD and industry became generally more open to releasing information on which we can stitch together and comment.

There is often a great deal of criticism of the MoD about its tardy response to IED’s but whilst much of it is complete nonsense there is equally much to be critical of. I do not think I would be saying anything controversial if I said the speed of response has been very slow, especially in comparison with other nations, but the MoD has for some time aligned itself behind a coordinated programme to counter the very serious threat from IED’s.

This is a detailed post with quite a broad remit that has taken a very long time to research and pulls in information from a number of sources including commenters on previous articles to whom I am very grateful.

Plus, we have spent far too much time on bloody floaty and flying things for a while!

Put the kettle on.

Background

To start this post it might be worthwhile covering in general terms what an IED actually is.

In its most basic form, an IED is some form of trigger connected to some form of explosive.

IED
IED

The ‘trigger’ may be operated by a vehicle or person depressing a pressure plate, an electronic timer, mobile telephone and electronic sensor of some sort or a command line connected to a manual initiation device. The explosive may be commercial or military, home-made, use remnants of military equipment such as artillery shells or combinations of all. The explosives may be augmented with fragmentation components or even chemicals to enhance their destructive effects.

IED pressure plate trigger
IED pressure plate trigger

The device can be buried, placed in a vehicle, in a wall or even on a person i.e.. suicide bomber.

Vehicle Borne IED
Vehicle Borne IED

So as can be seen, there isn’t a simple way of even describing them, let alone defeating them.

We might also ask, what is the difference between an IED and a landmine?

Iraqi land mines encountered by the 3rd Infantry Division US Army
Iraqi land mines encountered by the 3rd Infantry Division US Army
Iraqi land mines encountered by the 3rd Infantry Division US Army
Iraqi land mines encountered by the 3rd Infantry Division US Army

What about the difference between civilian demining(click here for a detailed guide) and military breaching or route clearance?

Lots of questions…

In conflicts where fast paced combined arms manoeuvre has been replaced with an enduring presence they tend to be used by opposing forces to counter their military weakness and in this respect it is entirely understandable that they are extremely effective, producing disproportionate casualties when compared to their cost and given that the currency of enduring operations is political will ‘at home’ casualties can influence that political will and ultimately, the outcome. In some respects therefore, an IED is a strategic weapon, used to influence the conduct of a campaign and its ongoing political support.

They can be alternatively viewed in the context of the age old and simple measure, countermeasure cycle, but however one might view them, they remain a significant challenge

We often talk of paradigm shifts or game changers and whilst we should avoid over hyping their impact IED’s have produced a range of tactical, strategic and equipment shifts in recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan; that cannot be disputed.

IED’s have been used ever since military forces made use of explosives but the generally accepted term is a device used by non-conventional forces, terrorist groups and insurgents. The British Army has a long history and extensive expertise based on dealing with all manner of IED’s in Northern Ireland and the UK. The munitions legacy of WWII has also resulted in a continuing workload and evolution of the means of dealing with explosive devices.

Afghanistan also has a unique and particularly ugly landmine legacy, often described as the most landmined country on the planet. Russia mined Afghanistan in a completely indiscriminate manner, very lax on recording and with no regard for civilian casualties, in fact, one can only conclude that the mining of civilian areas was cynical and deliberate. Landmines still pose a threat in Afghanistan and many British casualties have been caused by soviet era mines and given that many mines can remain effective up to 50 years after they have been laid and migrate position due to environmental factors, the problem will continue.

In the British armed forces there are a number of different organisations that have evolved to deal with IED’s, mines and unexploded munitions. This legacy division of role continues today although the inexorable march of ‘jointery’ means that some of the boundaries have been eroded. All three services maintain capabilities for dealing with unexploded munitions with the Army having two, the Royal Engineers and Royal Logistic Corps.

5131 (BD) Squadron RAF (they have their own website) provide rapid clearance for detached operating bases, all RAF estate and crashed aircraft.  The Royal Navy Fleet Diving Squadron has two Diving Groups, North and South, that provide EOD from the high water mark to the UK territorial limit, on vessels, the RN estate and offshore facilities. Both RAF and RN teams have also deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Royal Engineers are responsible for the clearance of WWII German bombs (except those in crashed aircraft which the RAF look after), land mines and military booby traps. Just to make this even more complex, they also deal with service ammunition above the high water mark or non tidal water (rivers and lakes) except those specifically within the remit of the RAF, RN or RLC. The Royal Engineers will also be used where functions like drilling or excavation are required and also provide specialist high risk search capabilities. The Land Forces EOD and Search Branch was established in 2010 with the aim of providing a single focus for all policy, direction and inspectorate responsibilities. The Royal Engineers now field the one-star Defeat the Device lead for C-IED search.

History of RE EOD, click here

Because the Royal Engineers have the mobility and counter mobility role which includes both the deployment of mines and their clearance, the route clearance capability, of which Talisman has evolved into, is also within the domain of the Royal Engineers.

The Royal Logistic Corps, the Royal Army Ordnance Corps as was, because of their expertise with ammunition have generally dealt with the more complex IED’s. The RAOC were made responsible for disposal of defective munitions in WWI and this continues today, they retain the lead for all IED disposal activities

Joint Defence Pamphlet 2/02 Joint Service Explosive Ordnance sets out the details, read here

The RAOC Felix operators taking the long walk in Northern Ireland, the development of EOD robots including the world’s first, the Wheelbarrow and their heavy protective suits are all iconic images.

RAOC Felix - The Long Walk
RAOC Felix – The Long Walk

It is worth pointing out that members of 11 EOD Regiment RLC were specifically requested by the USMC in Iraq to clear booby trapped oil installations in 2003. These high threat IEDD operators show a unique form of bravery, worthy of similarly unique admiration.

As with any capability area where two organisations have sometime overlapping responsibilities there has been continual ‘organisational friction’ that no doubt will continue until this apparent duplication is resolved.

When is an IED an IED and when it is a mine or military booby trap, when does it need clearing or when does it need recovering for intelligence exploitation are sources of this apparent overlapping of responsibilities.

This is a very sensitive subject and I certainly don’t want to get into the middle of an RE/RLC ‘discussion’ because frankly, I am not qualified to do so.

So, on to route clearance, the subject of this post

We might deploy mine rollers so to counter buried IED’s, bomb makers simply put the charge some distance away from the pressure plate. As vehicles become more resistant to IED’s, devices get bigger, as we defeat radio remote control devices with ECM the enemy might go low tech and use two saw blades or a bicycle inner tube as a rudimentary pressure plate device. If we decide to get out of vehicles and walk we might find instead of huge IED’s that take much time and effort to manufacture and emplace, the enemy simply switches to directional anti-personnel IED’s in walls or trees.

Despite this categorisation complexity and ever changing threat landscape the anti IED effort comprises broadly three legs;

  • Training and awareness
  • Defeating the networks that create IED’s
  • Defeating the device

Each is closely connected and defeating the device can comprise elements as diverse as scene change detection using airborne radar to blast attenuating seating in ‘blast resistant’ vehicles.

Route clearance is the specific activity of ensuring a specific route is free (to an acceptable level of risk) from devices and able to be trafficked, it has a related activity called route proving which confirms a route is clear before being opened for traffic.

In order to understand how we got to Talisman it is helpful to see what went before.

The next section is a meandering look at the subject and will wander into IED protected vehicle territory a bit and crossover into comparable systems from other nations.

History

The World Wars

Mines, IED’s or unexploded munitions, in many ways they are the same, we have been dealing with them for decades.

Mark I Tank fitted with magnetic mine lifter 1918
Mark I Tank fitted with magnetic mine lifter 1918
Mk IV Anti Mine Roller
Mk IV Anti Mine Roller

Although not specifically for IED disposal the flail tank is worth mentioning for background.

Most people have heard of flails, having seen them in relation to D Day or North Africa and wonder if they would be part of a solution for the Counter IED mission in Afghanistan. The flail tank was invented by a South African Army Major in 1942, Captain Abraham du Toit, although there were patents before that and another South African officer also came up with a similar idea independently. After the customary official disinterest, duplication of effort and ingenious persistence the idea eventually came to fruition as a collaborative effort in the North African desert, resulting in the Matilda Scorpion.

The Scorpion flails were driven by a separate engine enclosed in the box on the right, this also included space for the operator, must have been rather warm.

Matilda Scorpion Flail Tank North African Desert WWII
Matilda Scorpion Flail Tank North African Desert WWII

I had a look at General Percy Hobart, a true armoured warfare visionary, and the use of armoured combat engineering in an earlier post. I think it’s one of the most interesting aspects of D-Day. The Sherman Crab was a marked improvement on previous implementation; the flails were driven from the main engine via a power take off, hydraulic raising/lowering and barbed wire cutters which enabled it to double up as a barbed wire breaching device. One of the most important innovations was a system that allowed the marking of a safe lane, using smoke grenade launchers, an illuminated pole launcher and chalk dispenser. The Sherman Flail performed a vital service during D Day and beyond and its importance should not be underestimated. A similar system was also fitted to the Churchill AVRE’s.

Sherman AVRE Flail
Sherman AVRE Flail

Flails were not the only anti mine technology, ploughs and rollers were used before the flail as early as 1918 but the flail seems to have had greater success in the war years because they were lighter, more suited to the type of terrain encountered and against the mines of the day.

Flail Tank (1944)

There was no end to the mad schemes thought up in WWII to counter the mine threat

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British Post War Overseas Experience

This 1952 video from British Pathe shows a Churchill flail on exercises

Sappers Show Their Paces (1956)

Despite some smaller developments, post war, the fail and roller eventually fell out of favour and the explosive breaching charge like the Giant Viper were generally seen as the answer to minefield breaching for operations in Europe.

Giant Viper Trailer (Image Credit - Flickr Cold War Warrior)
Giant Viper Trailer (Image Credit – Flickr Cold War Warrior)

We certainly faced mines and IED’s in Rhodesia and Aden but the main effort was still Europe and providing rapid breaching capabilities for armoured forces.

Although not for route clearing it is worth noting that for operations in Aden during the last sixties and the 1980 Commonwealth Ceasefire and Elections Monitoring Force operation (Op AGILA) in Zimbabwe/Rhodesia mine protected vehicles were deployed, commonly, Land Rovers and Bedford RL and 3 Tonne trucks.

Mine Protected 3 Toner Aden 1967 (Image Credit Aden 30 Fd Sqn RE)
Mine Protected 3 Toner Aden 1967 (Image Credit Aden 30 Fd Sqn RE)
Mine Protected Land Rover Aden 1967 (Image Credit Aden 30
Mine Protected Land Rover Aden 1967 (Image Credit Aden 30
Land Rover Mine Protected - Op AGILA Rhodesia - Zimbabwe 1980
Land Rover Mine Protected – Op AGILA Rhodesia – Zimbabwe 1980 (Image Credit – Flickr Cold War Warrior)
Land Rover Mine Protected - Op AGILA Rhodesia - Zimbabwe 1980 01
Land Rover Mine Protected – Op AGILA Rhodesia – Zimbabwe 1980

What is interesting about these images is the length of time between them, Aden in 1967 and Rhodesia/Zimbabwe in 1980 using what appears to be exactly the same design, possibly exactly the same vehicles.

Contrast that with the MoD’s accounting model now that sees equipment disposed of with undue haste, a theme I will look at later in this post.

Bedford RL’s were also modified

Despite these limited equipment changes, clearing received much less focus and the Army concentrated on deliberate breaching for the German theater, understandable of course.

Local Forces – Central and Southern Africa

Whilst not directly related to British forces it is useful to highlight what was happening elsewhere in the world, particularly with local African forces, to set the scene for our own experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Many designs evolved across southern and central Africa, starting with simple adaptations of existing vehicles and culminating in highly specialised designs for logistics, personnel transport and detection of mines.

From the Kudu to the Buffel to the Casspir

Kudu Kudu

Buffel
Buffel
Casspir
Casspir

Rather than these general transport vehicles it is this route clearance specialism that is shown in more detail below.

The Pookie was a specialist mine detection vehicle, first developed and built in Rhodesia in 1976 by Ernest Konschel, comprising a monocoque armoured capsule sitting on an open frame chassis. The donor chassis was Volkswagon Kombi which used low downward force torsion arm suspension and this was combined with surplus Formula One tyres to create a ground pressure of less than 3lbs per square foot, lower than a human.

This ultra-low ground pressure meant that it did not even detonate anti-personnel mines and allowed the detector to be used without fear of detonation; the Pookie could drive right over a mine and not set it off.

Pookie
Pookie
Pookie
Pookie

Detection allowed the mine to be cleared or selectively detonated and standard operating procedure was to detect, mark and retire, with sappers carrying out the controlled detonation or removal. These standard operating procedures developed in Rhodesia would go on to form the basic concept of operation for modern systems.

In four years of operation not a single mine was detonated by a Pookie but they found over 550 and had both a practical and psychological effect. Although relatively slow it was very effective and during the latter years of its service the enemy was known to have placed a bounty on them.

None were lost to land mines although a number were damaged in ambushes that specifically targeting them and only 1 driver was killed, by a direct RPG hit. Responding to the threat of ambush they were fitted with the spider, a 24 barrel 12 gauge shotgun providing a 270 degree arc of fire.

Built at a very low cost, R$11,000, they were a great success.

The Spinnekop was another variation on the same theme but developed by South Africa later in the decade.

Spinnekop mine detecting vehicle
Spinnekop mine detecting vehicle

In response to a South African Army requirement to clear military convoy routes of anti-vehicle mines in Northern Namibia and Southern Angola, RSD developed the Chubby system, an obvious successor to the Pookie.

Chubby
Chubby

Chubby utilised a range of V shaped and open frame vehicles to both detect and disrupt mines. The detection vehicles were very low ground pressure but the detonation vehicles had staggered wheels and high ground pressure.

We need to be clear on this, the Chubby system was an operationally deployed and obvious success but it was designed to counter a specific set of discrete threats in a single environment.

It is interesting nonetheless though and clearly an important milestone in the development of route clearance equipment and tactics.

The Last Domino was a documentary about the South African border wars, click here to view PART 1, PART 2, PART 3, PART 4, PART 5, PART 6  and PART 7. There is some fascinating footage on mine protected vehicles, clearance and airborne operations, well worth a viewing.

The Troubles

In Northern Ireland, the British Army faced a range of roadside bombs and vehicle borne IED’s of varying natures, over the thirty years of the troubles a wide range of vehicles were developed but because of the operating constraints and environment they tended to focus on protected mobility for the RAOC and RE teams such as the Glover Web Tactica in the image below, otherwise known as Van IEDD

Glover Webb Tactica
Glover Webb Tactica

Covert moves and a greater utilisation of helicopters were other responses to the threat.

The Nineties

1991

In 1991 the British Army used the Aardvark Mine Flail in Iraq although not, reportedly, with any great success.

Aardvark Mk4 – лучшая машина для разминирования

Also in 1991 DFiD sponsored three demining related projects, MINETECT, DRAGON and a risk reduction programme with Serco.

DRAGON was an incendiary designed for the safe disposal of mines and more on MINETECT later.

1993

The British contribution to operation in the Balkans, UNPROFOR, IFOR and SFOR spanned this period (SFOR became EURFOR in 2005) and involved up to 10,000 UK personnel at its peak.

One of the key emerging requirements was for ordnance disposal and in particular, route proving/clearance. Mines were used liberally by all belligerents and the two mine awareness post cards from SFOR demonstrate the variety used.

Anti Personnel Mines Postcard SFOR (Image Credit - Flickr Cold War Warrior)
Anti Personnel Mines Postcard SFOR (Image Credit – Flickr Cold War Warrior)
Anti Tank Mines Postcard SFOR (Image Credit - Flickr Cold War Warrior)
Anti Tank Mines Postcard SFOR (Image Credit – Flickr Cold War Warrior)

All forces in the conflict suffered from mines, the images below (again from Cold War Warrior) show the aftermath of a TMA3 mine strike on a Saxon in the hills above Rama Lake, Bosnia, in 1994.

Saxon mine damage SFOR (Image Credit - Flickr Cold War Warrior)
Saxon mine damage SFOR (Image Credit – Flickr Cold War Warrior)
Saxon mine damage SFOR (Image Credit - Flickr Cold War Warrior)
Saxon mine damage SFOR (Image Credit – Flickr Cold War Warrior)

Other vehicles were not so lucky and personnel were killed by mine strikes whilst in a Spartan CVR(T)

In response to the threat a requirement for a mine protected vehicle was created.

This is where it gets very complicated; making sense of the commercial arrangements in this niche market area is extremely difficult as there are several competing viewpoints of the same series of events so this might not be 100% accurate but it is as close as I think it can be.

The Mamba 4×4 was a development of the earlier Mamba 4×2 developed by Mechem and used the South African Army’s old Unimog 416 trucks as parts donors, the production contract was awarded to Reumec with  the basic design licenced from Mechem. Higher strength steel and multiple design refinements had allowed the manufacturers to flatten the deep V that characterised the earlier vehicles and therefore create a more practical layout.

The first Mamba 4 x4 prototype was tested in 1993.

In late 1993 two prototype vehicles were sent to Alvis in the UK who had partnered with both Mechem and Reumech in South Africa

The two prototype vehicles were the Iron Eagle scout car and the first 4×4 version of the Mamba 2.9m wheelbase mine protected vehicle.

The Iron Eagle became the Alvis Acorn

Alvis Acorn
Alvis Acorn

(click here for another picture)

The Mamba 4×4 was called the Alvis 8 as it carried eight people.

Both vehicles were trialled in Bosnia in 1994, according to Janes

Alvis 8 SFOR
Alvis 8 SFOR

After a successful trial of the Alvis 8 the MoD requested a shorter wheelbase (2.4m) version and this was to become the Alvis 4. Because of time pressures Alvis also loaned the MoD a number of Alvis 8’s, the longer wheelbase version with the old fashioned running gear, so there were both versions in theatre.

Alvis 4 SFOR
Alvis 4 SFOR

Both the Alvis 4 and Alvis 8 were commonly called Mamba’s and the Alvis 4 had a number of modifications including an armour plate to defeat the TMRP 6, mine, stretcher lashing points and Clansman radio wiring and battery charging systems. The original requirement was for a vehicle that could extract casualties from vehicles that had detonated mines although they would, eventually, also used in the route proving role.

Alvis 4 SFOR
Alvis 4 SFOR
TMRP6 Mine
TMRP6 Mine

6 were deployed to the Balkans in 1996 for use by the Royal Engineers, costing £1.2million in 1990′s money.

The Alvis 4’s were a great success but the harsh climate and terrain of the Balkans combined with the extra weight imposed by additional armour and old fashioned mechanicals exposed a number of reliability and safety limitations so they were eventually disposed of and a replacement sought (more later)

During the Balkans deployment we also purchased 3 complete sets of the Chubby route clearance system from RS Dorbyl and France also ordered a small number. The three for the MoD were released from SADF stock and refurbished before shipping.

Designed for the conditions of southern Africa the Chubby system encountered a number of problems with the weather and terrain in the Balkans, unable to cope with icy and tight mountain roads their utility was limited.

However, instead of keeping them for other operations, developing the concept or at least storing them we decided to get rid as soon as possible.  They were subsequently disposed of to the HALO Trust, a charity that specialises in the removal of the debris of conflict.

The flail enjoyed resurgence in the 90’s as the need for humanitarian demining of post conflict areas such as Angola and Afghanistan became obvious. Although the military still have flails in their kit bags, Singapore have recently developed the Bionix Trailblazer and Germany the Keiler for example, the majority of users are now civilian demining organisations. The Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining has some excellent publications on the subject.

Another well known example is the Hydrema MCV910 (also in service with the Singapore armed forces) and there are many others.

Hydrema 910 Mine Clearing Vehicle
Hydrema 910 Mine Clearing Vehicle

Some were also used in the Balkans.

Hydrema 910 MCV - KFOR
Hydrema 910 MCV – KFOR
Hydrema 910 MCV - SFOR
Hydrema 910 MCV – SFOR

To understand the reason why flails have limited utility for use in counter IED operations it is important to understand the difference between a mine and an IED. Mines are usually well packaged, discrete devices with an integral trigger device. IED’s found in Afghanistan and other places often have the mean of initiation some distance from the charge and this is a problem that all mechanical demining tools have when countering IED’s. Whilst the flail might do its job and activate the trigger or pressure plate, the main charge could well be a few metres back up the road and directly under the flail vehicle chassis.

Other significant problems include the likelihood of distributing explosive materials indiscriminately and there is the obvious destruction of the ground surface. This might cause problems with a civilian population, especially if it is repeated on tracks used for local transportation. Modern mines have also evolved to be resistant to the pressure patterns of flails.

So although flails have some utility in demining operations in a civilian context and minefield breaching (not clearance) in a military context, their use for counter IED in counter insurgency operations is limited, hence why they are used less.

The civilian demining community has over many years tried all manner of mechanical demnining equipment, is generally wary of the claims of equipment manufacturers and tend to use human deminers as the lead method with mechanical equipment in support, not the other way around.

1994

In 1994 the Canadian government initiated the Le système amélioré de détection des mines terrestres (SADMT) project, or Improved Land Mine Detection Systems (ILDS)

The ILDS is a new, remote controlled, multi-function mine detection system, which will soon be delivered to CF Engineer units. The system will incorporate Ground Penetrating Radar, a Minimum Metal Detector, Forward Looking Infrared Radar, and a Thermal Neutron Activation Detector.

The Improved Landmine Detector Project was initiated because Canadian peacekeepers faced an ongoing threat from low metal content mines, Canada playing a leading role in peacekeeping missions at the time. The concept envisaged an armoured protection vehicle that would lead the remote detection vehicle and detonate any anti-personnel or metal/tilt rod anti tanks mines.

1996

In 1996 three Alvis 4’s were procured for operations in Macedonia for £1 million

1997

The US DoD tested a Chubby route clearance system from RS Dorbyl and the US company, LNY

Dorbyl’s Chubby mine-clearing system, already sold to France, Uganda and Britain, was being tested by the US Army in Baltimore after modifications the Americans requested before committing to a substantial order fulfilled through the US prime contractor, Critical Systems International.

In a 1997 presentation from Col James Anderson on the military aspects of mine detection and clearance the priority to which the Royal Engineers and MoD placed on this was stated thus;

The biggest threat to the Army’s mobility – in war and operations other than war – is landmines. Hence the most important programmes are now counter-mines programmes. This represents a considerable challenge. Of particular concern is trying to shift the balance of the overall programme without upsetting existing capabilities or distorting them too far.

The Army’s mindset was clearly focused on the issue, at least within the confines of the Royal Engineers.

1998

US forces started working on the development of the Interim Vehicle Mounted Mine Detector (IVMMD) system using the 10 Chubby systems purchased from RSD Dorbyl the year previously. The interim system was to provide a lead in capability that needed little or no development and the Chubby system was the obvious contender.

IVMMD used the two vehicle and multiple trailer model of the Chubby, the lead detection vehicle being called the Meerkat and the Husky being the vehicle that towed the heavy detonation trailers.

The Canadian ILDP vehicle was consistently doing well in US trials in which it had entered and the intellectual property was transferred to General Dynamics Canada to enable a production order to be fulfilled.

1998 also marks the publication of the Strategic Defence Review which saw a host of new programmes, new thinking and much change.

1999

The Australian DoD purchased a complete Chubby set for evaluation at a cost of 4.66m AUS$

A recent field evaluation of the Chubby, Rapid Route and Area Mine Neutralisation System (RRAMNS) will help inform future capability design work of Army RRAMNS systems as well as point the way for improvements to currently in-service vehicles.

The US requested a demonstration of the Buffalo heavy protected demining vehicle and purchased a small number for evaluation.

Another five Alvis 4′s were obtained for operations in Kosovo at a combined cost of £2.3 million

The total of fourteen Alvis 4/8′s obtained to this point cost £4.5 million.

In 1999 Minetech resurrected the Pookie vehicle and combined it with a modern Ground Penetrating Radar system from Tricon, a German company specialising in detection equipment. The basic design was improved with a new powerpack, hydraulic steering and power system.

Minetech and Tricon Pookie in Somaliland
Minetech and Tricon Pookie in Somaliland

After a series of post trials improvements the Minetech Pookie fleet was deployed to Afghanistan and may even still be there.

After the poor performance of the Chubby systems in the snow, mud and close terrain of the Balkans, the MoD initiated the Mine Detection, Neutralisation and Route Marking (MINDER) programme.

The 2000’s

By the turn of the millennium, UK forces and the MoD had experience of route proving with protected vehicles, Alvis had licence and production arrangements in place with a number of South African manufacturers, the Pookie had been rediscovered and deployed to Afghanistan, France, the UK and the USA had used or were evaluating either the Chubby system and/or the Buffalo demining vehicle.

2000

The MoD was up and running with MINDER, a ten year programme initially thought to be worth up to £100million with expressions of interest due in to the Defence Procurement Agency (DPA) by the third week of January. The prime contractor was to work with the MoD to produce two variants, MINDER RP (Route Proving) and the reconnaissance version, MINDER Recce.

The MINDER requirements were said to be ambitious, no surprises there, recognising the likely use of IED’s and mines the UK needed a system that could operate anywhere in the world.

MINDER RP was to be a mine protected vehicle that carried a sensor suite to detect mines and IED’s, a means of neutralising them and marking a safe lane. MINDER RECCE would be fitted to the army’s Future Engineer versions of reconnaissance vehicles such as MRAV and TRACER.

10 Minder RP and 50 Minder Recce were the likely order quantities.

April; The first of the Canadian ILDP vehicles were delivered to the Canadian Army by General Dynamics Canada. It is claimed (correctly) that the ILDP is the first multi sensor remote operated vehicle mounted landmine detection system in service with any military.

November; In response to a written Parliamentary question the Chief of the Defence Procurement Agency, Robert Walmsley, stated that contracts had been awarded to Ultra Electronics and Hunting Engineering for the Competitive Assessment Phase (CAP) of MINDER. Each contract was worth £6 million and a bid was also received from BAE Systems, which was not successful in the detailed tender assessment process. Total expected costs had risen to £344 million and initial capability was expected to be in 2005 with incremental growth up to 2010.

BAe had partnered with Mechem (part of state owned Denel) from South Africa for their bid and included a development of Chubby, GIAT Industries of France were also on the shortlist. The rejection of BAE is interesting because their proposal was the only one that had partnered with a South African company and the only one that had a mature and in service start point, the Chubby.

It is also interesting to ponder why the UK did not partner with Canada or the US on their similar programmes.

Another Parliamentary question elicited a response on the capabilities of MINDER

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what targets were set for MINDER Route Proving during the competitive assessment phase; what plans there are for the development of a mix of sensors for locating and neutralising anti-tank and anti-personnel mines; and if he will make a statement. [139656]

Dr. Moonie: This is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Defence Procurement Agency. I have asked the Chief Executive to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Robert Walmsley to Mr. Mike Hancock, dated 28 November 2000:

I am replying to your question to the Secretary of State for Defence about targets set for the MINDER Route Proving System and the development of sensors for the neutralisation of mines. This matter falls within my area of responsibility as Chief of Defence Procurement and Chief Executive of the Defence Procurement Agency.

MINDER will be developed incrementally and each variant will have progressively more demanding targets to meet. Initially MINDER (RP) should be able to detect all basic surface laid landmines together with most buried mines. The later variants of the equipment should detect all buried landmines, and have an ability to detect off route mines.

The Competitive Assessment Phase (CAP) will identify the mix of detection sensors that MINDER will have. Research so far suggests that it is likely to be a combination of metal detectors, ground penetrating radars and infra-red detectors. Explosive detection systems may also be used.

Another question in a similar subject

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what concepts have been developed by the UK Defence Evaluation and Research Agency for mine detection; what the cost of the latest version of the technology demonstrator is; what the technology demonstrator is based on; and if he will make a statement. [138979]

Dr. Moonie: The Defence Evaluation and Research Agency is undertaking a number of research tasks for the Ministry of Defence in mine detection. There are three applied research technology demonstrators, aimed at proof of principle demonstrations. These are:

1. The Advanced Hand Held Mine Detector (AHHMD) technology demonstrator programme that started in April 1995. AHHMD is a man-portable, although not necessarily strictly ‘hand held’, system. Research expenditure has been approximately £3 million over five years. The demonstrator is based on integration of Metal Detection, Ground Penetrating Radar and Quadruple Resonance sensors.

2. The Mine Detection, neutralisation and Route Marking System (MINDER) technology demonstrator programme that started in April 1997. MINDER is a land vehicle mounted system. Research expenditure will be in the order of £4 million over five years. The demonstrator is based on integration of close-in Metal Detection and Ground Penetrating Radar sensor arrays and forward looking Ultra Wide Band Radar and Polarised Infra-Red sensors.

3. The Remote Minefield Detection System (REMIDS) technology demonstrator programme is aimed at minefield detection rather than individual mines and began in 1995. Research expenditure will be in the order of £6 million over six years. The demonstrator is based on Ultra Wide Band Synthetic Aperture Radar and Polarised Infra-Red sensors together with a mine detection workstation.

It should be obvious from this that there was a clear and identified need for MINDER and that a range of sensors were being considered. It is simply not true that the MoD was unaware of the issues and were doing nothing about it but a question might be reasonably asked about the ambition of the programme, its priority in a crowded post 1998 SDR equipment programme and the lack of cooperation with allies.

The evolutionary approach as taken by the US had been rejected in favour of a big leap forward. Whilst the US willingly accepted an interim solution based on the RSD Dorbyl Chubby we were getting ready to dispose of ours and shoot for the moon.

Clearly, experience in the Balkans had informed thinking about future operations and the likely prevalence of mines, although perhaps not IED’s as we might think of them today.

US forces started work on a remote control option for their IVMMD systems and had further refined the follow on concepts from their interim solution.

The Australian Army’s also engaged in their own Chubby trials, click here

2001

One of the individuals from Alvis and former soldier who was involved with the Alvis 4/8 programme, had by this time left and set up a company in the USA called Seafire, working with the Technical Solutions Group to market their products in the UK and Europe.

Although still in service the Alvis 4’s were proving increasingly difficult to support and so a replacement programme was launched.

For the Alvis 4 replacement Seafire proposed the Lion Mine Protected vehicle and partnered with Supacat who acted as the technical prime and integrator for UK specific requirements and safety compliance.

The name Tempest was chosen to avoid confusion with a number of other MoD projects and eventually 8 vehicles were obtained for a total contract price of £2.7 million.

An older version of the Royal Engineers website claimed that the Tempest MPV was based on a Peterbilt 330 tractor unit with a Marmon Herrington 4 wheel drive running gear but other sources indicate that it was a custom designed unit although based on a US Mack truck running gear to a South African base design.

Tempest Mine Protected Vehicle
Tempest Mine Protected Vehicle
Tempest Mine Protected Vehicle
Tempest Mine Protected Vehicle

More pictures here

The official name was Tempest 4×4 12TON Mine Protected Vehicle.

The US Army selected the Buffalo, a derivative of the Lion II vehicle, after testing it and the well-known Casspir as part of the follow on from the IVMMD programme called the Ground Standoff Mine Detection System (GSTAMIDS) Block 0. Buffalo was part of the system which still included the Husky/Meerkat combination.

The now familiar Husky/Buffalo combination was coming together.

In March 2001 the Chubby systems purchased as a UOR for operations in Bosnia were gifted to the Halo Trust, MINDER was on its way after all.

4 Mar 2008 : Column 2352W

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 7 February 2008, Official Report, column 1494W, on military equipment: land mines, when the armed forces procured the Husky, known as Chubby vehicle sets; at what price they were purchased; when they were disposed of; to whom they were sold; and at what price they were sold. [190314]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Although Chubby vehicle sets were used in Bosnia in 1996, provided, we believe, as an urgent operational requirement, we no longer hold the relevant procurement records. The Chubby vehicle sets were gifted by the MOD to the Halo Trust on 20 March 2001. The value of the gift is recorded as £27,000.

Record keeping obviously not a strong point of the MoD

The MINDER Competitive Assessment Phase continued with a demonstration of a four sensor detection system.

The Hunting Engineering consortium included Thompson Missile Electronics, RTS Advanced Robotics, DERA and Redifon and it is clear that the resultant concepts envisaged some form of articulated arm for disruption of devices.

As part of the MINDER programme, Pearson Engineering developed the PEROCC, the Pearson Engineering Route Opening and Clearance Capability, a heavily modified commercial wheeled loader.

Pearson PEROCC
Pearson PEROCC

Click here to read the brochure and a very quick video, here

The Australian Army magazine reported on the ongoing trials with the Chubby system.

A Parliamentary Answer revealed the technology areas being investigated for MINDER

Mr James Gray; To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made on new technology to detect and remove land mines; and if he will make a statement.

Dr Lewis Moonie (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence); The Ministry of Defence’s on-going generic mine detection research programme is currently assessing the following technologies:

Ground penetrating radar

Metal detection

Polarised thermal imaging

Ultra wide-band radar

Quadrupole resonance

This research has resulted in the demonstration last year of an integrated three-sensor portable mine detector and a four-sensor vehicle mounted mine detection system.

Research is also under way on a Portable Humanitarian Mine Detector. A pre-production demonstrator system will be completed by July 2002 for assessment by humanitarian de-mining organisations.

The Ministry of Defence and QinetiQ have also developed a pyrotechnic torch for destroying anti- personnel and anti-tank mines with minimal collateral damage and improved safety of deployment. Current procurement action for this system is aimed at delivering 2000 units into military service by early 2002.

The Defence Procurement Agency placed contracts in October with Ultra Electronics Ltd. of High Wycombe, Bucks and Hunting Engineering Ltd. (now Insys Ltd.) of Ampthill, Bedfordshire for the Competitive Assessment Phase of the Mine Detection, Neutralisation and Route Marking System (MINDER) Programme, with an initial capability to enter service by 2005.

Progress has also been made to improve the effectiveness of minefield breaching operations, and techniques have been developed to improve ploughing efficiency and survivability. Investigations into individual mine neutralisation are also taking place.

It is probably fair to say that amongst the Western nations at this time, the UK was in no way behind, looking at advanced concepts with MINDER, funding research into a variety of detection technologies and leveraging South African experience through sensible partnerships, all whilst developing operational concepts in the Balkans, even though we had rejected the Chubby system.

What could possibly go wrong, a fully coherent programme was in place after all?

2002

In February TSG announced the first delivery of the Tempest MPV to the MoD and was acquired by Sonic Jet in July. The combined company went on to become Force Protection.

The US DoD ordered ten Buffalo protected clearance vehicles from TSG/Force Protection for $6.6 million after extensive evaluation in the preceding few years. The Buffalo was a heavy, extremely well protected and durable vehicle, designed to go into harm’s way and neutralise IED’s. The articulated claw was used to move materials and disrupt devices.

The US Army then quickly deployed four Buffalo’s to Bagram in Afghanistan to assist with clearance operations at the air base.

MINDER was cancelled in the Assessment Phase due to ‘technical solutions not proving adequate performance’

After several tens of millions of pounds has been spent and a number of years in assessment, the Army was left with nothing except a handful of Tempest Mine Protected Vehicles used by the Royal Engineers and a small number of the Alvis 4’s still soldiering on in the Balkans.

2003

In February 2003 TSG announced the delivery of the final Tempest MPV to the MoD.

Tempest Mine Protected Vehicle’s (MPV) were deployed to Iraq in 2003 in support of initial operations around Basra, specifically against the mine (not IED) threat but were withdrawn soon after.

Tempest Mine Protected Vehicle
Tempest Mine Protected Vehicle
Tempest Mine Protected Vehicle (Image Credit - Plain Military)
Tempest Mine Protected Vehicle (Image Credit – Plain Military)
Tempest Mine Protected Vehicle (Image Credit - Plain Military)
Tempest Mine Protected Vehicle (Image Credit – Plain Military)

The Alvis 4/8′s were finally withdrawn from UK service in the Balkans.

The US Ground Standoff Mine Detection System (GSTAMIDS) Block 0 program was terminated and became the FCS GSTAMIDS but crucially, the Husky and Buffalo vehicles were retained.

In November, the US DoD initiated market research to meet Urgent and Operational Needs for blast protected vehicles used in route clearance and EOD operations, this was later to become the JERRV programme.

US forces deployed their Buffalo vehicles to Iraq.

The Iron Claw Experience

Canadian forces started preparation work for the first deployment of the ILDS to Afghanistan, click hereto read an article.

From the earlier concepts ILDS had matured into a deployable system.

2004

The USMC requested TSG/Force Protection deliver the first 27 Cougar vehicles, these were a completely new design, not based on any previous design although the obvious general principles of sacrificial components and hull shaping are self evident. The Cougar was actually designed by a small team including a British engineer and the first variant was called the Hardened Engineer Vehicle (HEV).

The French armed forces started development of SOUVIM, a similar concept to the Chubby system.

Whilst the (GSTAMIDS Block 0) programme was terminated, the IVMMD equipment was still in the US inventory so was deployed to Iraq early in the year, immediately starting limited operations to counter the growing IED threat.

A January Stars and Stripes article highlighted the speed in which the Husky and Buffalo vehicles have been deployed to Iraq and how effective they had become.

After withdrawal from service the Alvis 4′s were disposed of due to reliability and safety concerns, lack of spares and road worthiness issues.

9 went to the Estonian armed forces, 4 to a US Security company (Blackwater) and 1 to Singapore

Total sale value for all 14, £448,000.

Out of the ashes of MINDER came the Mounted Countermine Capability and Dismounted Countermine Capability. The dismounted aspect revolved around handheld detectors and the mounted version, a vehicle borne system.

It is also during this period that operations in Southern Iraq were beginning to expose the weakness of the Snatch Land Rover and other vehicles as insurgents starting using IED’s to attack coalition forces across Iraq.

By the end of this year, US forces had the Husky, Buffalo and Cougar vehicles in use in Iraq.

2005

The US subsequently adopted the Cougar Hardened Engineer Vehicle (HEV) design with some modification and they were renamed the Joint EOD Rapid Response Vehicles (JERRV) and Medium Mine Protected Vehicle (MMPV)

Force Protection received a series of orders from the US DoD, totalling approximately $87 million for the delivery of 122 Cougar JERRV. There were a number of configurations of JERRV including a 4×4 and 6×6 and subsequent orders numbered in the hundreds. With the earlier Buffalo, they went on transform anti IED operations in Iraq. BAe RG31′s and others were also obtained by US forces when it became obvious that Force Protection could not ramp up production fast enough to meet the burgeoning demand for MRAP’s.

Blackwater Security continued to use their Alvis 4’s purchased from the MoD in and around Baghdad.

Alvis 4 Blackwater Iraq
Alvis 4 Blackwater Iraq

ERA Technology and Vallon received funding from DFiD and the German Foreign Ministry to develop and testthe MINETECT/MINEHOUND detector that used both metal detection (from Vallon) and ground penetrating radar (from ERA) that would eventually go on to be incorporated into some models of the ‘Vallon’ detectors that are widely used by almost everyone today.

An interesting and little known spin off from DFiD investment in demining.

The Mounted Countermine Capability was ‘defunded’ but a small amount allocated to test the vehicle developed by Pearson for MINDER.

The Canadian ILDS was deployed to Afghanistan on Op ATHENA.

The ILDS suite comprised three vehicles, a truck based command vehicle that could control the other elements from up to 2km away, a Remote Detection Vehicle (RDV) and the Protection Vehicle (PV).

The PV was based on an M113A2 chassis equipped with a Forward Looking Infra Red (FLIR) camera, the remote control equipment, Pearson mine blade and a route marking system that laid a black line that the operator of the Remote Detection Vehicle would follow.

ILDS Protection Vehicle
ILDS Protection Vehicle
ILDS Protection Vehicle
ILDS Protection Vehicle

The Remote Detection Vehicle had evolved somewhat as well with additional work carried out by QSINE.

ILDS RDV, Afghanistan
ILDS RDV, Afghanistan

Experience on this deployment showed that the system was not suitably ruggedized, that on rough surfaces the detection system was not reliable and it was better suited to area clearance tasks than route opening, ouch!

The Winter 2004 edition of the Canadian Army Journal recorded a number of deficiencies with the system and also has an interesting write up of the issues of route proving and clearance.

CSI were awarded an order for 30 IVMMD Mk2 systems by the US Army.

More casualties from IED’s were sustained by the Army in southern Iraq and the controversy continued.

2006

Tempest Mine Protected Vehicles (MPV) were deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 supporting a range of EOD related tasks.

4 years after the cancellation of the MINDER programme, 3 years after the invasion of Iraq and a year after the Mounted Countermine Capability programme was effectively cancelled, the MoD decided to have another go.

This was a joint UK Canadian programme called the Mounted Countermine Capability Concept Demonstrator or MC3D. Pearson Engineering were awarded a 2 year contract from the MoD for the Mounted Countermine Capability Concept Demonstrator (MC3D). Not sure how this programme dovetailed into the Canadian ILDS system though.

Canada announced the EROC (Expedient Route-Opening Capability) programme that consisted of the Husky mine detector vehicle, and the Buffalo and Cougar mine protected vehicles. For $29.6 million (Canadian) EROC consisted of six Husky’s, five Cougars, five Buffalo’s and 2 years logistics support.

The Canadian Department of National Defense released the following statement;

Task Force Afghanistan, until recently, was supported by the US military’s Route Clearance Package; however, with the transition to the International Security Assistance Force, the US assets have been redeployed elsewhere. Their proven track record and unique performance is not currently available anywhere else in the world, and Canada has chosen to move quickly to meet the needs of the Canadian Forces by working with our American ally to procure the vehicles.

The Expedient Route Opening Capability (EROC) systems will conduct mounted searches for buried improvised explosive devices using three types of highly specialized vehicles: the Husky, the Buffalo and the Cougar. The systems will be acquired through the United States military; use in operations have proven how highly successful these EROC systems are. Canada intends to obtain a total of 16 vehicles, including six Husky, five Buffalo, and five Cougar 6×6 vehicles.

The Husky provides the detection capability, with a landmine overpass capability and a mounted full-width metal detector enabling the detection of targets located in the roadbed or along the verges. Once a target has been detected, the Buffalo will use its extendable arm and remote controlled camera to physically expose the potential target for verification and identification. The Cougar will transport the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Operators and their vast array of tools, including Explosive Ordnance Disposal robots, to dispose of the IED

Elsewhere, initial trials were completed in Angola of the Niitek Visor ground penetrating radar fitted to the Mine Stalker vehicle. The trials were funded by the US Department of Defense Humanitarian Demining Research & Development Program.

Initial trials of the Minestalker mounted the Visor onto a bespoke vehicle designed by none other than the British company Multidrive, subject of their very own Think Defence post.

Multidrive tractor used for demining by the Halo Trust
Multidrive tractor used for demining by the Halo Trust
Multidrive 6185
Multidrive 6185

More information here and here

Defense Review published an article about the success of the Force Protection 4×4 Cougar JERRV operated by the USMC, highlighting the resistance of the vehicle to IED attack.

The US 25th Infantry Division began acceptance testing of the Honeywell T-Hawk micro UAV

The US IVMMD received a new lease of life and the Meerkat/Husky combination was replaced with a single Husky Mk2, the resultant system became known as Vehicle Mounted Mine detector (VMMD)

By replacing two different vehicles (Husky and Meerkat) with a single versatile vehicle that could be used either in the detection or towing role, the logistics overhead was reduced and flexibility improved.

Critical Systems International in the US now offer the Chubby/VMMD complete system.

A technology improvement plan was also initiated that included installation of a Niitek Visor 2500 Ground penetrating Radar (GPR) system. The Visor 25000 was designed to counter the increasing use of low and non-metallic devices and reduce false positives.

Initial deliveries to Afghanistan began for the Canadian EROC system.

US counter IED forces in Iraq modified their RG31’s with commercial leaf blowers from Buffalo Turbines to expose debris and earth that might be covering IED’s.

Buffalo Turbines mine blower mounted on a Husky
Buffalo Turbines mine blower mounted on a Husky
Buffalo Turbines mine blower
Buffalo Turbines mine blower

A number of Husky vehicles were also fitted with the same Buffalo Turbines leaf blowers as fitted to the US RG31’s

In response to a written Parliamentary question, the MoD confirmed that;

There is currently no formal UOR for the procurement of either “Buffalo” or “Husky”, which are equipments currently used by US Forces. The requirement for a route clearance capability to support current operations is being assessed by the Equipment Capability Manager and this may lead to a UOR in the future if required.

By the end of the year, Force Protection had received orders for 137 Buffalo’s and Talisman was still ‘being assessed’

2007

The Channel 4 documentary from Sean Langan, Fighting the Taliban, was aired in the UK in which British forces were seen driving Land Rover WMIK’s and the accompanying Estonians their MRAP style vehicles.

These vehicles were none other than the Alvis 4’s that were disposed of by the MoD a few years earlier.

About 32 minutes in on the video below one the ex British Estonian Alvis 4’s can be seen carrying a wounded British soldier.

A few more images of the Estonian forces Alvis 4’s

Estonian Army Alvis 4
Estonian Army Alvis 4
Estonian Army Alvis 4
Estonian Army Alvis 4

Meanwhile, having taken delivery of 6 Husky’s, 5 Cougars and 5 Buffalo’s in the EROC programme, Canadian forces were using them to great effect.

The technology improvement programme for the US Husky VMMD was completed and the resultant system is renamed (again) to become the Husky Mounted Detection System (HMDS)

A parliamentary question the Secretary of State for Defence revealed what happened to the Tempest deployment to Afghanistan.

26 Feb 2007 : Column 1032W

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) mine protected vehicles and (b) Chinook helicopters are allocated for use by British forces in Afghanistan; how many of those vehicles are in working order; and if he will make a statement. [111865]

Des Browne: The UK Task Force was provided with Tempest mine protected vehicles to provide protected mobility support to their explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) capability in Afghanistan. Despite a strong track record in other operational theatres, they have not proved as effective in Afghanistan and are therefore due to be replaced with a new capability within the next three months. In the interim, the mine route-proving capability of the UK Task Force has not been affected by the lack of Tempest, as other vehicles within the EOD Task Force have been able to complete required tasks.

In addition, while not designated a ‘mine protected vehicle’ the newly procured Mastiff, a wheeled patrol vehicle with a less intimidating profile than our tracked vehicles, offers good protection against a range of threats including mines. We are rapidly procuring around 100 of these vehicles for use in both Iraq and Afghanistan. An effective Mastiff capability is now operational in Iraq, and reports indicate that UK forces there are pleased with them. They will start to be delivered to Afghanistan this spring. I am withholding the precise number of each type of vehicle available, as the information would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of our armed forces.

Following my written statement of 24 July 2006, we have sent two additional CH-47 Chinooks to Afghanistan, making a total of eight, and have increased the number of flying hours. Commanders on the ground have made clear that they have sufficient helicopter assets to conduct current operations. We will continue to keep our helicopter requirements under review to ensure that we have sufficient support to meet current and anticipated tasks. The exact number of helicopters available on any given day will fluctuate subject to routine repair and maintenance work. I am withholding the precise number that are currently in working order as the information would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of our armed forces.

The MoD announced the introduction of the Tellar munitions disposal vehicle, based on the Mowag Duro chassis already in service with the Army, to almost total bewilderment by those that have been reading about two things, the vulnerability of the vehicles in use in the British Army and the capabilities of the US forces in the same theatre, by now using the Husky, Cougar and Buffalo combination.

The vehicle carries all equipment required by the end user to undertake conventional munitions disposal. It has also been fitted as an emergency response vehicle (blue light enabled), and is fitted with a mobile phone, force protection suite, a personal address system, and two Global Positioning Systems (GPS): a Bowman radio GPS, and a commercial GPS. It also comes fitted with a level of riot protection.

Each vehicle weighs 9.5 tonnes and costs around £415,000. 18 vehicles have been bought, with 14 to be deployed on operations, and four held in the UK for training and reserves. Tellar will deploy with the Joint Explosives Ordnance Disposal force on both Operations Herrick and Telic in the near future.

The article states they will be used by the Royal Engineers for conventional munitions disposal and deploy to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

From the Parliamentary Answer the British Army replaced the Tempest mine protected vehicle with Tellar, a vehicle with the equivalent protection of a crisp packet.

Tellar (Duro base vehicle)
Tellar (Duro base vehicle)

Deploying a vehicle to Iraq and Afghanistan that comes ‘fitted with a level of riot protection’ was a questionable decision to say the least.

US forces in Iraq started using the Honeywell T-Hawk micro UAV in counter IED operations, flying ahead of convoys to examine suspect areas.

Click here for a great video report on the Canadian EROC system in Afghanistan

The Canadian Army publish a news article about a forthcoming deployment to Afghanistan of the EROC and ILDS equipment.

2008

The US Navy ordered 327 T-Hawk micro UAV’s from Honewell for EOD use.

The MoD came in for criticism from the coroner at the inquest of an ATO killed in Afghanistan.

US armed forces ordered their 200th Buffalo mine clearance vehicle, Italy ordered four, France five and Canada, an additional fourteen

The Talisman project was revealed and orders placed with BMT for project support and PA Consulting as part of the team.

The MoD news release stated

£96 million from the package will also be used to develop a specialist route clearance system known as Talisman, which will provide a new high-tech way of dealing with the IED (Improvised Explosive Device) threat. Among the Talisman vehicles to be developed will be the Buffalo mine-protected vehicle and the Engineer Excavator.

New and hi tech?

Many questioned the hyperbole

Honeywell and Thales signed a teaming agreement for the T-Hawk

An article in the September 2008 DESider Magazine stated that Supacat Ltd were still providing logistic support for the Tempest Mine Protected Vehicle.

A Parliamentary question in November revealed the in service date for Talisman

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which vehicles make up the Talisman project currently subject to an urgent operational requirement; and what the in-service date of the project is. [232770]

Mr. Quentin Davies: Talisman is a project which will deliver a system of vehicles, sensors and techniques to counter improvised explosive devices. In doing this, the system will better enable safe movement along routes in Afghanistan.

Initially the system will include three vehicle types: Mastiff, Buffalo and High Mobility Engineer Excavator.

Talisman is scheduled for initial fielding during late 2009, although its development will continue beyond that point.

Testing for the US Army Buffalo A2 programme began and at this point, over 25 improvements had been incorporated into the original design, including fire suppression, additional armour, a claw mounted real time video camera and the Air Digger.

Further improvement and trials work continued in Cambodia and Angola on the Mine Stalker system for humanitarian demining. The system was maturing and displayed a greater than 99.6% detection rate even against low metal anti tank mines. Confusingly, Mine Stalker is also the name given to the same ground penetrating radar but this time mounted on a remote vehicle.

2009

Aviation Week confirmed the MoD had ordered 5 complete RQ-170 T-Hawk Micro UAV systems at a cost of $5.7m

Honeywell T Hawk Described

US forces in Afghanistan commenced Operation Gateway III which involved clearing Route 515 of IED’s using the Husky system.

A video was released that highlights the scale of the Counter IED effort

IED Hunters Afghanistan

Thales was appointed the Mission Systems Design Authority for the Talisman project, £25million please. The press release states that as part of the services, Thales will supply warehousing, no, honestly

The MoD took delivery of 14 Buffalo’s

The MoD took delivery of a number of Dragon Runner robotic vehicles from Automatika, a division of QinetiQ.

QinetiQ Dragonrunner robot
QinetiQ Dragonrunner robot

At a conference on defeating the IED, General Sir Richard Dannat stated

The insurgent has chosen to put his strength up against our weakness, it forces us into bigger and more protected vehicles, or even better for them, to stay in our bases and not have any access to the people. To do our job we must integrate with the people, and the insurgent wants to prevent us from doing that. It is time for expenditure on counter IED to move from UOR to core business. If we accept that we will be in Afghanistan for three to five years and beyond, there is no doubt that this is now our core business.

As he leaves his job, in August 2009, he urged the MoD to put more resources into counter IED activity, ironic.

Improvised explosive devices are a major issue at the moment. They are a major tactical battle that we have got to win and we need to roll out more equipment so that we have permanent 24/7 surveillance over the most difficult areas and so we can target the Taliban as they are laying these things

In particular, General Dannatt called for the Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) programme to be accelerated, with data and images collected by planes and unmanned air vehicles looked at and analysed by specialist staff who then pass the information on to field commanders, who are said to believe that the lack of these specialists is directly influencing the number of fatalities the British army is experiencing

In response, Liam Fox, the then Shadow Secretary of State for Defence said;

Good ISTAR capability, in addition to more helicopters, earning the trust of the local population and increased armour, is the best way to counter the IED threat. If there is a shortage of this capability, the government must do everything it can to fill that gap

In the same month, Michael Yon published his excellent report from his embed with UK forces, Bad Medicine

This laid bare the sheer scale of the problem, the efforts of high threat C-IED teams and the flimsy Tellar vehicle that was used by the Joint Force EOD Task Force.

CSI continued to develop the Husky system, the Mark III now includes a large number of improvements and there is also a 2 man version called the 2G to handle the extra workload resulting from the Niitek Visor 2500 Ground Penetrating Radar and other sensors.

Husky 2G
Husky 2G

Over 500 of various types are now in service at this point.

The Husky – Critical Solutions International

Initiated in late 2008, the improved claw on Buffalo’s can now grasp and rotate objects, not just rummage around. The system can be retrofitted to existing vehicles in less than 30 minutes

Improved Spork
Improved Spork

The UK ordered 5 Honeywell T-Hawk micro UAV systems for $5.7million, each system comprising two air vehicles and ground control equipment.

2010

US field experience with the T-Hawk micro UAV revealed a number of problems

At the MoD and DE&S, the Counter IED Capability Steering Group and C-IED Office were formed to ensure the CIED capability was managed across the whole of defence, coordinating the numerous C-IED projects. Underpinning the C-IED office was a team from the Niteworks partnership that created an MoD Architecture Framework 2 (MoDAF2) compliant decision support tool.

It is quite telling that it is not until 2010 that the MoD had a structure in place to coordinate the Counter IED effort, 7 years after the start of operations in Iraq.

Whilst in Istanbul, Robert Gates, the US Defense Secretary, made the following offer

Today I told our allies that the United States will be able to offer them more intelligence, training and equipment including jammers, route clearance robots, surveillance systems and ground-penetrating radar

Operation MOSHTARAK commences with a big counter IED effort.

The C-IED Task Force comprised personnel from both the RLC and RE. The RLC Ammunition Technical Officers (ATO’s) work with the RE Search Teams (REST), REST finds the devices and the RLC ATO dispose of them.

A BBC News at Ten report from Afghanistan was aired, a pretty harrowing account of joint USA-UK operations that resulted in the death of a Royal Engineers Search Adviser (RESA). The report showed US forces using Husky’s and Cougar JERRV’s to clear the route. When the US Husky contacted a large IED the force has to resort to on foot detection.

An interesting report on Task Force Thor (Target Hazard Open Roadway), the US unit responsible for route clearance

The Python system gets its first outing in Afghanistan.

As part of Operation MOSHTARAK the Royal Engineers deployed an explosive clearance system called Python, towed behind the Challenger derived Trojan Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVRE). Detecting mines and IED’s in front of vehicle or foot patrols, called ‘Op Barma’, is usually a painstaking, dangerous and incredibly difficult task, using Vallon hand held detectors. Occasionally an opportunity exists to use more automated methods.

The Python is the replacement for the Giant Viper, in fact a mid life upgrade called Giant Viper Mid Life Upgrade (GVMLI) that replaced the motor unit and other components. Instead of the parachute system in the Giant Viper the Python uses a long strip of Velcro (honestly) to retard and straighten the hose as it deploys.

It is nothing more sophisticated than a 228m length of rubber hose, except the hose is filled with high explosive. Launched using a rocket motor it deploys across the ground to be breached and when it lands the explosive filled hose detonates, initiating and destroying any mines or IED’s in its path, clearing a safe line approximately 7m wide and 180m long.

The Trojan and Titan (the world’s fastest armoured bridge layer by the way) have been in service with the Royal Engineers for three years and will soon to be joined by the Terrier, a lighter armoured combat engineering vehicle that will replace the Combat Engineer Tractor, long since out of service.

The operation allowed a significant section of a wadi north of Patrol Base Wahid to be cleared of IED’s, although the Python provided a breaching not clearance capability meaning that clearance teams will have to make sure the area is 100% clear. Breaching versus clearance is about the management of risk, breaching means operational tempo can be maintained at an acceptable risk.

Python mine clearance system first use in Afghanistan during operation Moshtarak.

Phyton rocket in action – direct view

Trojan and Python had been in theatre for a while but this was the first public airing of its undoubtedly excellent capabilities and marked an interesting change in approach

The Express published a story claiming the MoD rejected the Niitek Visor 2500 GPR.

Commenting on the story, Tory MP, Patrick Mercer said

This is yet another example of the Government dithering. American and Canadian forces are using this equipment now and lives are being saved.

David Cameron announced that TALISMAN was scheduled to be in Afghanistan ‘within the next two months’

A June Parliamentary Answerrevealed that Talisman had been in service in Afghanistan since April.

France took the lead on a European Defence Agency project where member states will jointly buy a forensic laboratory to analyse improvised explosive device (IED) debris.

The French Army took delivery of the MBDA SOUVIM 2 anti mine/IED system.

Similar in concept to the Husky, SOUVIM2 (Système d’OUVerture d’Itinéraire Miné) is claimed to be able to clear 150km of track per day and consists of two vehicles and three trailers.

The first vehicle (designated VDM or Véhicule Détecteur de Mines)) carries magnetic and thermal decoys that trigger heat sensitive, trip wire and tilt-rod activated mines. The vehicle travels at a speed of 25 kmh and uses low pressure tires to reduce the chance of triggering pressure sensitive mines. These are detonated by the heavyweight trailer, towed behind the VDM.

A follow-on vehicle is the VTR (Véhicule Tracteur de Remorques), which tows two additional trailers to tackle residual un-detonated mines to create a safe track up to a width of 3.9 meters. The trailers are designated RDM (Remorques Déclencheuses de Mines)

Seems like a typical ‘not invented here’ response from the French!

A number of media reports indicated that British ‘bomb disposal experts’ have been ordered to detonate many improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan rather than trying to dismantle them after four members from 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment have been killed in just over a year in Helmand.

The US ordered another 76 Niitek Visor 2500 ground penetrating radar sets to be fitted to their existing Husky vehicles. The contract included spares, training and maintenance support at a cost of $106.5 million, roughly £900k each. The complete set is called the Husky Mounted Detection System or HMDS. As the threat has evolved the benefits of ground penetrating radar for the counter IED mission is becoming obvious and the argument for its use compelling.

US Husky’s have primarily been used for main supply routes because of its size but the NIITEK VISOR 2500 system was miniaturised and mounted on a Talon unmanned robotic vehicle for use in closer and more difficult terrain. A remote 6×6 vehicle was also used for trials in Cambodia

US forces now have 80 systems in theatre and Canada, 21.

Niitek are now owned by the UK company, Chemring

In a visit to Afghanistan, David Cameron said:

My biggest duty as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is to our Armed Forces and to make sure that they have all the equipment and all of the protection that they need to do the absolutely vital job that they are doing here in Afghanistan.

I’m pleased to announce today that we will be spending an extra £67m on countering the IED threat and actually doubling the number of British teams that are there to counter the threat from those explosive devices.

Speaking at DVD, Peter Luff MP, the new Minister for Defence Equipment Support and Technology said;

Tackling the IED threat is vital for us to make military progress. C-IED is not just about the bomb disposal expert defusing a bomb, vital and dangerous though that role is. It is about making sure that our soldiers have a range of tools, tactics and techniques available to them.

MoD sponsored research continued, UK scientists from St Andrews University for example, were developinga laser system that detects minute quantities of ‘indicator molecules’ given off by explosives.

Talisman had a public viewing at the Defence Vehicle Dynamics 2010 show.

MoD DSTL scientists involved with work on detection equipment were honoured by the Queen with OBE’s for two of them.

The Talon robots that are part of Talisman were criticised by an unnamed ‘army bomb squad insider’, quoted in The Sun newspaper, who said the 10kg robots were too weak to lift explosives, could not cut wires cleanly, were difficult for troops to transport and were prone to falling over on uneven ground.

The Dragon Runner is useless – everybody knows it,” the insider was quoted as saying. “It’s more of a hindrance than a help. It won’t go over uneven ground or anything with a slight gradient. Nine times out of ten it just topples over.

The MoD released a story about how the Army has utilised the skills of a Canadian ‘cowboy’ to assist with training personnel in ground awareness.

Talisman on operations was featured by the MoD;

The arrival of the new Talisman counter-IED system in Afghanistan is helping 15 Field Support Squadron, 38 Engineer Regiment, deal with the menace in less time and more safely.

Scattered throughout Helmand province, these indiscriminate weapons kill and maim both ISAF and Afghan forces as well as innocent Afghan civilians.

However, the British Armed Forces now have a revolutionary new capability called Talisman which is being used to counter the threat.

I don’t mind the occasional bit of bully but come on MoD, revolutionary, you have to be joking.

This life-saving equipment is being used to support combat logistic patrols which can be up to several hundred vehicles in total and trek through the country delivering vital supplies to bases for the troops on the front line. Talisman is also starting to be used in combat infantry roles, such as for deliberate route clearances.

Major Thomas Donohoe, Officer Commanding 15 Field Support Squadron, explained:

What Talisman brings is a remote capability. It keeps soldiers out of the contact zone of the IED, massively reducing the danger.

The optics and the unmanned aerial vehicle lower the threat to the team on the ground. It will save lives.

The vehicles and equipment used by the Talisman Troop include a specially equipped Mastiff vehicle, known as ‘Protected Eyes’, and a Buffalo – the most highly protected vehicle on operations. There is also a small robot on caterpillar tracks known as a Talon. It is armed with high tech optical equipment which can be operated from the safety of the armoured vehicles. Talon is used to detect and defeat the IED on the ground. Once the IED threat has been dealt with, the high mobility engineer excavator (HMEE) is brought into play.

The Improvised Explosive Device is the biggest threat to life for troops on the ground in Afghanistan.  Scattered throughout Helmand Province, these indiscriminate weapons kill and maim both ISAF and Afghan soldiers as well as innocent Afghan civilians.
The Improvised Explosive Device is the biggest threat to life for troops on the ground in Afghanistan. Scattered throughout Helmand Province, these indiscriminate weapons kill and maim both ISAF and Afghan soldiers as well as innocent Afghan civilians.

77 Armoured Engineer Squadron (35 Engineer Regt), 31 Armoured Engineer Squadron (32 Engineer Regt), 52 Armoured Engineer Squadron (22 Engineer Regt) and 25 Field Squadron (38 Engineer Regt) have also resourced the Talisman system in subsequent Herrick deployments.

Reinforcing the fact that technology is not the answer to all problems the MoD released another story that described how men, machines and animals are combined to detect and defeat IED’s.

Finally for the month, another story, close behind, looked again at military working dogs, especially in the IED detection role

The MoD released a news item describing Talisman.

In the news piece the costs had nearly doubled to over £180million and the purpose defined as;

Talisman has been designed to provide an increased level of assurance along routes throughout the region. It consists of a suite of cutting-edge equipment, including armoured vehicles, optical cameras and remote-controlled vehicles.

This life-saving equipment is being used to support combat logistic patrols, which can comprise several hundred vehicles and trek through the country delivering vital supplies to bases for the troops on the front line

From this it is clear that RE operated Talisman is for route clearance and assurance, for combat logistics patrols and quite distinct from the RLC high threat C-IED teams although as with any system, new roles will be found.

Shepard reported that the MoD was looking at options for remote controlled vehicles, especially some of the thousands of Snatch Land Rovers that are earmarked for disposal. The Snatch Technology Demonstrator could be used for base security and counter IED systems were specifically mentioned.

Other bids from BAe and MIRA were also under consideration

The USMC was by now onto its third generation mine roller system.

This Decade

2011

MTU engines celebrated the 1000th delivery to Dorbyl RSD for the Chubby.

A Corps update described the introduction of remote equipment for detection and flailing, Panama and Minewolf.

Both these new capabilities were kept under close wraps.

General Dynamics Canada launched their Foresight integrated anti-tank landmine detection system based on the earlier ILDS work, click here for a brochure.

Shepard confirmed that Talisman had been supplemented with a remote control vehicle that carried a range of sensors under the Operational PANAMA header.

More work is required to fine tune ‘Operation Panama’, the UK Ministry of Defence’s unmanned Snatch Land Rover solution for the Talisman route-clearing capability, according to a senior British Army officer.

Speaking at the UV Europe conference in Brussels, Maj Thomas Donohoe, HQ 29 EOD and Search Group, confirmed the system was now deployed in Afghanistan although he conceded that there were a ‘number of issues’.

‘We are not 100 per cent clear on its capability,’ he said. ‘There is more work to be done but at least we are in the right ball park to get a mounted system to detect [IEDs] and prevent my soldiers dismounting.’

Comprising approximately a dozen unmanned Snatch Land Rovers and undisclosed sensor suites and data links, the vehicles are now working in conjunction with other manned land platforms.

The vehicle donor was a Snatch Land Rover, 2 per Talisman team. Part of a £15m contract addition the PANAMA conversions used the MACE2 remote control technology from MIRA.

PANAMA Snatch
PANAMA Snatch

Another recent addition was ten Mini Minewolf MW240’s

Operation of the T-Hawks was transferred to detached Royal Artillery personnel to ensure they were being used to the maximum of their potential.

2012

The Mirror has a story about the use of commercial leaf blowers being used by British forces in Afghanistan.

Canadian forces have started training their Australian counterparts on the EROC equipment.

CF train Australian Forces to detect, disarm IEDs

MBDA announced a partnership with Force Protection to create the Netted Route Clearance Concept includes both the SOUVIM and Buffalo vehicles.

SOUVIM2
SOUVIM2
SOUVIM 2 is a countermine system based on a combination of mine decoying subsystems. It is able to clear 150 km of route in one day. It is particularly suitable for main supply route clearance. SOUVIM 2 is composed of two vehicles and three trailers. The first vehicle - VDM - carries the stand-off mine decoy support frame including DEDALE magnetic decoy antennas. The VDM is immune to pressure mines because of its specially designed low pressure tyres which will not detonate any mine. It tows a weighted trailer - RDM 1 -, which detonates mines and secures and marks a track for the second vehicle. The second vehicle - VTR - follows the lane secured and marked by the VDM, and tows two additional trailers - RDM 2 & 3 -, which detonate pressure mines deployed on the track up to a width of 3.9 m.
SOUVIM 2 is a countermine system based on a combination of mine decoying subsystems. It is able to clear 150 km of route in one day. It is particularly suitable for main supply route clearance. SOUVIM 2 is composed of two vehicles and three trailers. The first vehicle – VDM – carries the stand-off mine decoy support frame including DEDALE magnetic decoy antennas. The VDM is immune to pressure mines because of its specially designed low pressure tyres which will not detonate any mine. It tows a weighted trailer – RDM 1 -, which detonates mines and secures and marks a track for the second vehicle. The second vehicle – VTR – follows the lane secured and marked by the VDM, and tows two additional trailers – RDM 2 & 3 -, which detonate pressure mines deployed on the track up to a width of 3.9 m.

Other nations have also started looking at similar systems, Germany and France for example. Despite the much vaunted benefits of European cooperation on Counter IED activities, the three main military nations in Europe, France, Germany and the UK, each have completely different systems although there is some component commonality.

Talisman Today

Talisman is used, broadly speaking, for two tasks;

Combat Logistic Patrol (CLP) route assurance where it will lead the vehicle convoy, prove, and if necessary, clear the route

Deliberate clearance to open routes that are used by ISAF forces and local civilians.

Talisman is not just a collection of kit but a thoroughly thought through and constantly evolving series of techniques and procedures and no doubt it will continue to evolve.

The Talisman Squadron is a Royal Engineer route clearance Squadron for Task Force Helmand. Personnel are mainly Royal Engineers but also include medics, Royal Logistics Corps (RLC), Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), and Royal Artillery cap badges.

A standard Talisman system comprises two Buffalo’s, 4 Mastiffs, two HMEE’s, two Talon UGV’s, two T-Hawk micro unmanned air vehicles, recovery vehicles and a number of stores vehicles but this can vary as needed.

Buffalo

The Buffalo is the main search vehicle, sometimes called the Buffalo rummage

Buffalo Vehicle
Buffalo Vehicle

If one looks at pictures of the Buffalo in service with US forces and the same vehicle now in service with the UK (pictures above) it is clear that the UK version does not have the video camera on the Spork or the compressed air blower or Air Knife

The image below shows the latest US ‘Improved Spork’ with the air blower

Improved Spork and Air Knife
Improved Spork and Air Knife

Perhaps at some point these improvements will be implemented on the UK version.

High Mobility Engineer Excavation

The JCB HMEE is used for a variety of purposes such as repairing damage caused by controlled explosions of IED detonations, creating earthworks, repairing culverts, route remediation works and other supporting tasks.

High Mobility Engineer Excavator, Part of the Talisman Suite of CIED Vehicles
High Mobility Engineer Excavator, Part of the Talisman Suite of CIED Vehicles
High Mobility Engineer Excavator, Part of the Talisman Suite of CIED Vehicles
High Mobility Engineer Excavator, Part of the Talisman Suite of CIED Vehicles

Because the whole point of Talisman is to clear and prove routes, not make big holes in roads, the HMEE is a vital element of the system as a whole, especially useful because uniquely amongst mobile plant, it can travel at the same speed as other road vehicles without needing a tractor and trailer.

JCB HMEE in action

Specially Adapted Mastiff 2

The Mastiff is used for command and control and general support, featuring a Remote Weapon Station and elevated Remote Optical Target Acquisition System (ROTAS) sensor package with a high magnification and multi sensor capability. This vehicle is often referred to as the ‘protected eyes’ version.

Talisman - Mastiff Protected Eyes
Talisman – Mastiff Protected Eyes 03
Talisman - Mastiff Protected Eyes
Talisman – Mastiff Protected Eyes
Talisman - Mastiff Protected Eyes
Talisman – Mastiff Protected Eyes

I had a very quick look at ROTAS in 2011, click here and here, for a ROTOS brochure.

The Mastiff is also seen equipped with mine rollers, a device that has seen a resurgence in Afghanistan.

Many people think these are the Self Protection Adaptive Roller Kit (SPARK) but they are not, instead, the MoD purchased over 100 Panama City Mine Roller Systems Gen III that the USMC have used since 2006 and made by the Naval Surface Warfare Center

Panama City Mine Roller - CHOKER C-IED
Panama City Mine Roller – CHOKER C-IED

Specification sheet here

T-Hawk

The T Hawk is used to provide remote sensing and observation

Talisman T Hawk UAV
Talisman T Hawk UAV

The downdraft has also been used in a similar manner to the leaf blowers, exposing loose earth and debris.

Talon

For general purpose close in remote observation and manipulation

Panama Snatch

The Panama Snatch vehicles are used singly or pairs; towed to the area and deployed as required.

Talisman - Panama Snatch
Talisman – Panama Snatch
Talisman Buffalo and Panama Snatch
Talisman Buffalo and Panama Snatch

These are also called the MACE3 Pathfinders and use a combination of sensors.

Mini Minewolf

The Mini Minewolf MW240 is used in route improvement operations, to demolish walls, cut down hedges and trees and other tasks to improve the safety of existing routes.

Talisman - Abacot (Minewolf)
Talisman – Abacot (Minewolf)
Talisman - Abacot (Minewolf)
Talisman – Abacot (Minewolf)
Talisman - Abacot (Minewolf)
Talisman – Abacot (Minewolf)

A number of different attachments are available including a gripper bucket, forklift, bucket, sifter bucket, dozer shield and vegetation cutter. A flail attachment is also available but this is not to be confused with the tiller and vegetation cutter.

Mini MineWolf (MW240) driving with vegetation cutter

The obligatory container shot is always welcome of course!

Mini Minewolf Container Workshop
Mini Minewolf Container Workshop
Mini Minewolf Container
Mini Minewolf Container

Summary

Talisman is one part of a complex ‘machine’

It cannot completely replace this kind of activity

Vallon IED Search
Vallon IED Search

Or this

IED Search
IED Search

Or the specialist search teams

A soldier from the Royal Engineers Search Team (REST) examines a drain in the search for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and armaments in the Afghan village of Tangi.
A soldier from the Royal Engineers Search Team (REST) examines a drain in the search for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and armaments in the Afghan village of Tangi.

Or even these

Military Working Dog in Afghanistan
Military Working Dog in Afghanistan

However, it has reportedly proven to be very effective at what it does.

Hope you have found this very long post useful.

In previous posts on the Base ISTAR CORTEZ project (cameras, aerostats and masts) and renewable power (GBA and FOBEX) it was apparent that the UK has taken a cautious approach to fielding innovative and disruptive technology, waiting for the fully formed capability to be deployed rather than experimenting in the field, making mistakes but learning from them.

The US DoD has taken this latter approach, getting new and experimental equipment into theatre as fast as possible and backfilling the support infrastructure and refining the concept as they go.

I am not sure we can say one approach is necessarily any better than the other though.

One thing is particularly illuminating is that towards the end of the nineties the UK was as innovative and forward thinking as anyone but through a series of poorly implemented initiatives, dithering over finding the perfect solution, a fundamental mis-reading of the impact of the IED and prioritising other equipment projects, this lead was lost and I think it should be obvious what the cost was.

There is no magic bullet and solutions come as much from technology as tactics and training, the joint EOD capability personnel within the armed services are magnificent and professional but it is hard to avoid the conclusion that until recently, they have been let down by the MoD.

The next challenge will be to sustain the capability to ensure that we don’t have to relearn the hard won lessons so expensively obtained in multiple theatres.

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Phil

I think prior to 2004 or so IEDs were one of a number of field problems and were institutionally thought of as such. Iraq and Afghan made these THE problem with the result that a massive change in mindset occurred which concentrated minds on these things and has seen countermeasures introduced down to every single soldier.

What will be important for the Army is not to bring Afghan IED baggage with them to conventional operations as some of the drills will get people killed in a different context. In Afghan we can afford the time to clear routes and sweep wherever we go, that can’t happen in a more stereotypical conflict.

We’re always playing catchup. Institutions are like Homer Simpsons brain, new things will push out old things because the scales involved and the questions over resources ensures institutional change is slow. A big question is how to speed up change or how to ensure the institutional memory is more long term.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

A comprehensive and enlightening read. Cheers boss.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

@ TD – another awesome post! I will have to go back and check out all the links…

SomewhatInvolved

One of the most thoroughly researched articles I’ve read yet – thanks TD. A very telling comment at the end – mismanagement and poor decision making in the MOD from the late 90’s. Sometimes it is truly scary to see how poor our support structures are.

mikezeroone

This is what TD’s all about :D
Grand article, very well reseaerched and thought out – deffo a fave post.

The last few paragraths and pictures are particularly poignant.

Adam Sugden
Adam Sugden

Mines and IED seem to of been ignored up on till the early 2000s by the british army. They were only equiped to clear a strait line through a known minefield. Three was no though of large IED. The vehicle were all desiged to deal with shell fragments and small rounds only. the up take on mineprof vehicles has been very slow with only the south africans haveing realy go into thenm in a big way equiping many of there units. it is peticly suprizing given that we put suviviblity so high on our list when buying equipment.

Mike W

TD

“One of the most thoroughly researched articles I’ve read yet – thanks TD”

I agree with SomewhatInvolved’s sentiments exactly. Brilliant!

One thought does occur to me, though. Couldn’t we do with a few Huskys with ground penetrating radar, given the susceptibility of the Snatch Land Rover to IEDs? I know that it is an unmanned, remote-controlled robot and in that sense a lifesaver. I suppose it is also considered expendable. However, there must be occasions, when the Snatch will be at the wrong angle for its radar to be operative and where the extra height and protection of a Husky vehicle would be advantageous.

Greatly like the capabilities of that Minewolf vehicle and it’s a robot into the bargain!

Simon

Not wishing to play down the evidently huge importance of these mine clearers/detectors, but I do so very hope that the Dragon Runner comes with a WAV file saying “Dog, mutt, canine, pain in the ass” or any other No5 quotes from Short Circuit.

That picture of the Dragon Runner does not do its tiny size justice!

However, an extremely sobering post TD… one of the horrid realities of war.

Mike W

TD

Just been reading parts of this outstanding article again. Where do you find the time for all that research?

I suspect from one or two thngs you have said that you might be an ex-Sapper. Whether that is the case or not, perhaps you could answer the following question.

If Talisman survives in the new Army 2020 set-up, where do you envisage it being placed? Will one of the surviving Royal Engineer brigades possibly be an enlarged one, able to accommodate specialist equipment such as Talisman, possibly the M3 (which will not re-appear until 2015), etc, etc. The alternative, I suppose, would be to spread smaller Talisman units around the remaining Engineer regiments. I think that the latter would probably militate against specialist skills and expertise being built up in a central organization.

Mike W

TD

As a follow-up to my last question, I was wondering whether you had any particular ideas on what the composition of the remaining Engineer regiments in Army 2020 might be. I am not talking about specialist regiments such as Air Support (ADR) but rather about the “general-purpose” Field(Is that the right term?) regiments. Would they have a range of Field squadrons, with a Field Support Squadron consisting of perhaps a Bridging Troop (BR90), a Plant Troop and a Resources Troop (as previously?)
Where would armoured resources such as Titan, Tojan and Terrier fit in? Will there still be Close Support Regiments, with Armoured Engineer Squadrons, to support the new Armoured Brigades, for instance?

You might possibly dismiss this question on the grounds that it is too early to say and I would understand that.

Mike W

TD

Thanks very much for replying. I know you must be very busy right now with all the revelations about Army 2020 coming out.

“if you think about it, Talisman comes to the fore in enduring type operations with armoured breaching using Trojan and Python being more relevant to the armoured reactive forces so it might be a reasonable prediction that Talisman might be in the adaptable element”

That makes good sense to me. I would love to see the capability kept and did read something in “Sapper” magazine (written by the Engineer-in-Chief, no less) to the effect in that they were looking into the possibilities of retaining Talisman, the REBS brigelayers and some armoured plant. I hope that gives reason for optimism.

janus
janus

Sorry to butt in this way, but wouldn’t using sniffer rats be more useful?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IRv3TOjE1I&w=560&h=315%5D

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

Fascinating. I’ve heard of dogs sniffing out explosives, people, even cancer but I never considered rats.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb

I really enjoyed your highly informative article. I only have a couple of really petty nitpicks that I feel downright embarrassed to mention:

1. The Churchill flail in the 1952 exercise film is actually a Sherman Crab (the giveaway was that the tank is tall and narrow, but look closely at the profile of the tracks at each end of the vehicle).

2. The picture of a Churchill flail is also a Sherman Crab (look at the running gear).

3. The USMC Gen III mine roller link is broken (no fault of yours!). Here’s a fix:

http://www.iimef.marines.mil/News/NewsArticle/tabid/472/Article/2831/east-coast-marines-train-with-new-generation-mine-roller.aspx

You left out one of my favourite post war engineer vehicles – the Churchill Toad! :)

john e watson
john e watson

In 2010 & 2011 i design the MECM mine explosive clearing machine the MECM would be used on long reach excavator with a reach of 60 or80 feet
The MECM weight is 750 lb more or less it is made up of a steel box 18 inch with with 4 digging blades that will dig 8 inch also has 3 steel cables 3 imch in diameter and has 8 inch digging blades to find ieds landmines tripwires pressure plate primer cord or boobytrap also efp mines ap & at mines & battery pack

john e watson
john e watson

also the husky is not a very efficient unit it is not wide enough and on rough uneven terrain the gpr could miss a mine
I think if a frame would be made so the gpr would be 8 or 10 feet long and 4 feet wide it could be mounted on excavator and could have magnetometer on each side of frame to find efp mines and would be able to sweep the complete road or field

john e watson
john e watson

if DEFENCE would make a frame to go on minewolf it could have gpr unit that would swing over the entire road gpr unit would be 8-10 feet long and 3-4 feet wide and would be parallel with road that way minewolf could move up 8-10 feet at a time also operator could see what he or she was swinging over frame could have magnetometeron on both sides of frame to find any metal or efp mines

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