Panama City Rollers

No, not some dodgy 70’s rock band but the IED pre-detonating rollers used in Afghanistan, usually mounted on a Mastiff armoured vehicle.

 

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

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

Read more about the Talisman counter IED system at the links below

https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2012/07/ieds-mines-route-clearance-and-talisman/

https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2010/06/is-talisman-too-little-too-late/

https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2010/07/talisman-on-operations/

https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2013/04/micro-minewolf/

 

 

 

 

 

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Mike W
November 21, 2012 9:15 pm

TD

Fascinating post.

1) I think, although I might be wrong, that the SPARK rollers were trialled by the British. Any idea why they were rejected in favour of the Panama City type?

2) I read an article some time ago suggesting that mine rollers were not always efffective in that the enemy was using delay devices on the IEDs in order to hit the vehicle and not the rollers. Still, they must be effective for the most part in that they are still very much in service with both the US and ourselves.

3) Do you think they will have a role post-Afghanistan? What I am getting at is do they possibly have a role in more conventional high-end warfare and not just COIN? I don’t know whether they could be fitted to tanks, for instance, as the Russians did for many years (and possibly still do).

Phil
November 21, 2012 9:32 pm

Never heard of a delay IED in Afghan. There might be one or two but most of them are a wooden pressure plate wrapped in tape or plastic with various cunning means of completing the circuit, a battery and a yellow oil container filled with HME usually 5-25 kilos big. We were never briefed on anything other than command pulls, radio initiated and pressure plate.

The bit of kit would certainly have a role in operations other than war or COIN but I think mine rollers are not brilliant at lane clearing, something like that bit of kit that trails an explosive filled hose seems better as it is quicker to be deployed. Against a modern AT mine that thing is going to be U/S once it hits the first one which is no good in a minefield! But fine for a bit of assurance in route work.

Mike W
November 21, 2012 10:08 pm

Thanks very much for all the info, born of first-hand experience too, which is more than I have.

Perhaps I made an error over the delay IEDs. When you mentioned “radio-initiated” I began to wonder whether the article I read was about delaying the radio signal to detonate, so that the vehicle was caught rather rather than the rollers. Could that be the case? You are talking to a complete novice here as far as mine/IED warfare is concerned.

Intersting that you are of the opinion that rollers would have role in operations other than COIN. I am probably thinking of old black and white photos of rollers on the front of tanks (e.g. the CIRD fitted to British tanks for D-Day). Yes, something like Python would almost certainly be more efficient at lane-clearing, while the rollers would be useful in route-clearance work.

Phil
November 21, 2012 10:29 pm

Think of how handy they might have been in Bosnia etc. I think nowadays whenever the Army goes somewhere a bunch of folk don’t like we’ll see some level of IED threat so it’s a handy bit of kit. But in general warfighting I think as a concept Python has overtaken.

In Afghan radio controlled IEDs are a very managed threat to the point of being almost non existent. But in other environments and against other nations they could easily bypass the roller and detonate them when the vehicle is over them by using an aiming marker.

I am sure there are delayed action IEDs but the more metal in them the easier it is to spot them. So it’s wood and plastic mainly. A delay device I assume could either be chemical or electronic but those electronics no matter how small increase the possibility of being detected. I don’t recall being briefed on them at all though.

Phil
November 21, 2012 11:06 pm

Yes indeed putting the plate well in front of the charge would be easy enough in theory but obviously the further it is the more ground sign there could potentially be. A sharp pair of eyes (behind ballistic glasses of course) should spot them.

Where we were the RE laid a ‘road’ with a mesh underneath it to upset the digging efforts. I even understand that it’s possible to have a mesh that is energised somehow and holes made in it show right up on a computer.

The IED threat is really most effective against dismounted units or mechanised units in a new area. In well established AOs there are many ways to make a route relatively secure.

Mike W
November 22, 2012 8:21 am

and TD

Many thanks for your detailed and very informative replies. There is a lot to assimilate in both of them and I might come back to you later.

I suppose what sums it up is this:

“As Phil also says, there is a difference between route proving, route clearing and breaching.”

Meanwhile, the area of mesh is really intriguing and new to me, especially the following:

“I even understand that it’s possible to have a mesh that is energised somehow and holes made in it show right up on a computer.”

Thanks a lot.

Ted Cole
Ted Cole
November 22, 2012 9:34 am

They remind me of the specialized equipment used in the invasion of Normandy June 1945, they were called Hobarts Funnies.

Bobblelink
Bobblelink
November 22, 2012 10:26 am

“Shawaddy wadi” I like it

Phil
November 22, 2012 1:47 pm

No mate I don’t think our little road warranted that stuff. The stuff used on our road was much flimsier, like a plastic net. Tough but obviously not as bad ass as that Route Trident mesh!

Mike W
November 22, 2012 3:40 pm

TD

Thanks for the tip on remote fiber sensing. Have had a bit of a rummage around and it certainly is intriguing stuff. Some of it, though, is couched in dense scientific langage that I find hard-going. Seems like a rapidly expanding area.

If you have any time, perhaps you might consider answering this:

“Their main problem is they limit mobility, they are a bit unwieldy and limit speed because the faster you go the more bouncy the wheels get. The more bouncy they get the more time they spend in the air and not on the ground.”

Is there no way of limiting, or even eliminating, that “bounciness”? I suppose that any attempted solution would involve an increase in weight, would it, to exert downward pressure?

Mike W
November 22, 2012 6:54 pm

TD

Thanks for the reply. Yeh, I bet it will be fiendishly complex, or even more difficult!

Observer
Observer
November 22, 2012 8:13 pm

Especially when you consider where is your pivot point for stearing. It’ll be like a bloody broom when you turn a corner.

Mike, the less give a roller has, the more force is exerted on it when it does hit a mine, and if really rigidly attached to the vehicle, might even flip the vehicle. The “bouncy” flex would serve to lessen the force of the explosion by absorbing part of it as motion over time, and to break away if the force is too strong, saving the vehicle from being flipped. So I can’t see the flexible mount going away soon. :(

On the other hand, there isn’t much else out there that does the same thing, so guess it is here to stay, at least until the International Assistance forces leave the country.

Mike W
November 22, 2012 10:45 pm

@Observer,

“Mike, the less give a roller has, the more force is exerted on it when it does hit a mine, and if really rigidly attached to the vehicle, might even flip the vehicle.”

Yes, I take the point. Vehicles might very well be flipped. Hadn’t thought of it that way. I suppose route clearance is usually a fairly slow business, though, and it might be argued that, altough extra speed would be nice, there is no need for a vehicle carrying rollers to go that fast anyway. Or have I got that wrong?

I was thinking more in terms of retaining a “flexi” arm but putting extra weight above the rollers, or is that too naive?

Obsvr
Obsvr
November 23, 2012 7:52 am

Rollers, even ad-hoc work well against APers minefields. In SVN RAE used locally made rollers fitted to an M113 to clear their own minefield of M16 mines. Once Sir Charles had cracked the anti-handling devices (cost about 50 VC sappers) the 10,000 M16s became a VC ammo supply point, a lot of Aust casualties resulted. To those who are unfamiliar with the M16 it is a jumping mine that sprays fragments all around. Of course the solution is simple, never walk on tracks. The jungle is your friend.

Devices like Python have been around for decades. Works well against the standard minefields of most armies. But try it on a UK minefield and a nasty surpise may be in store. The Sovs believed in the ‘NATO standard minefield’ about 100m deep. Tee hee, a few tk and MR regts would have got a memorable education.

Observer
Observer
November 23, 2012 3:23 pm

“Of course the solution is simple, never walk on tracks.”

Spoken like someone who has never taken a junglewalk before.

In dense vegetation, it’s “no machette, no walk.” And you can take a guess as to your speed when you have to chop for every step you take.

“But try it on a UK minefield and a nasty surpise may be in store.”

Why is that so? A line charge like a Python blasts a hole about half a meter deep for you to place your foot. Even pressure delayed mines would have gone off, not because of it’s own detonator, but because of the line charge’s explosion. Unless you’re really gung ho and plant mines > half a meter deep. Then you’re tamping your own mines with soil.

Obsvr
Obsvr
November 24, 2012 2:44 am

@ Observer

“Spoken like someone who has never taken a junglewalk before.

In dense vegetation, it’s “no machette, no walk.” And you can take a guess as to your speed when you have to chop for every step you take.”

Thank you for sharing your expertise with us. Only ignorant morons (and Hollywood ‘stars’ if they are different) wave ‘machettes’ around in jungle (unless they are clearing an LZ), the British Army issued ‘Golloks’ and in Vietnam secaturs were highly favoured in the smarter units. Jungle is very varied in nature and only secondary jungle offers a real challenge to movement and secaturs do the job there. Being a veteran of Borneo and SVN and been an instructor at JTC Canungra I’m happy offer my services to help out the ignorant when it come to jungle matters, but I don’t do deserts.

Re UK minefields, a minefield is a two dimensional barrier not three, frontage is one axis, depth the other (get a sapper to explain the nicer points of minefield density).

Observer
Observer
November 24, 2012 8:04 am

I’ll bypass the namecalling, even the indirect ones and ask:

“Being a veteran of Borneo”

Which part? Training for us is around the Temburong area.

And I still can’t figure out how a UK minefield would surprise someone doing lane clearing. If you don’t mean clearence resistant mines, then what do you mean? That they plant the thing in depth? That’s not going to surprise anyone. Even if the law requiring you to mark out minefields was violated, no one clearing minefields is going to say: “Ok, that’s it boys, 100 meters, now stand up and walk!”

And Soviet tank regiments tend to use mineplows. They can simply afford to bulldoze as long as they want.

Do you still remember the “radiating lines” pattern for mine layout?

ChrisM
ChrisM
November 24, 2012 12:25 pm

There are some barmines knocking about…
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-20110227

Phil
November 24, 2012 1:31 pm

“If we can’t use them in such a conventional and tactically useful manner like this, then when exactly?”

Easy, after we’ve had a brigade gutted from a flanking attack.

As long as its not more than one disaster in a day.

Observer
Observer
November 24, 2012 1:41 pm

I do admit I do see some sense in the anti-mine proponent’s points, especially since the munitions are not exactly picky on whose limb they blow off, so franticide is a fair possibility, mostly of the civillian kid kind. In reverse though, losing the war might ironically cost more lives, considering how often some victors start pogroms.

Hmm… interesting idea, dismountable RWS than can be set up independently as a remote sentry gun. Since there is a major push to mechanise infantry right now, a lot of IFVs are carrying GPMG/40mm RWS combinations. If you can get a modular system that can work by itself, it would still work as an anti-infantry area denial system, though not as good as a minefield. Currently, I know that the weapon systems of some open top turret IFVs can be dismounted and used as added infantry support weapons, though with a lot of cussing and swearing by the vehicle crew. This is just pushing the concept one step further.

Need a further think on this.

Mike W
November 24, 2012 1:53 pm

@TD and Phil

“If we can’t use them in such a conventional and tactically useful manner like this, then when exactly?”

“Easy, after we’ve had a brigade gutted from a flanking attack.”

Well, precisely, Phil. That’s why I was very disappointed to see Shielder disappear the British Army’s inventory. It was state-of-the-art when it came in and could create anti-tank barriers rapidly and effectively. Sooner or later something like it is going to be needed by British forces.

If the re-organization of the British Army and Reserve is going to be done with any imagination, then some of the Volcano canisters should be transferred to trucks and used by the TA for just such a contingency. The Stormers have presumably gone but do you know what, I bet the mines, canisters and launcher racks have already been quietly disposed of as well.

Phil
November 24, 2012 2:00 pm

Mike W

Don’t get too depressed. It’s just one of those transient social values that come and go. Mines are unacceptable precisely because we haven’t had to use them for some time in their original setting. Luckily their cheap and easy so re-arming with them shouldn’t take very long at all.

Observer
Observer
November 24, 2012 3:02 pm

Phil, blame the Americans and their habit of littering the place with UXDs in the Vietnam war. And freedom of the press. Too many cameras roaming around taking shots of kids with missing limbs.

I won’t say it’s a severe loss though. There is always the old AT ditch standby, AT embankments, AT block obstacles, hedgehogs or the 10 layer con-wire track tangler or failing that, command detonated mines. First 2 of which you simply need an excavator which you can temporarily borrow or loan from almost any construction site. Just ask the driver if he wants to make a few bucks on the side for 1-2 hours of extra OT work. :)

“Luckily their cheap and easy so re-arming with them shouldn’t take very long at all.”

Make us an offer.
We seem to have misplaced our copy of the Ottawa. Such a pity. :P

Mike W
November 24, 2012 3:45 pm

“Luckily their cheap and easy so re-arming with them shouldn’t take very long at all.”

Well, I take some consolation from that.

“It’s just one of those transient social values that come and go. Mines are unacceptable precisely because we haven’t had to use them for some time in their original setting.”

However, I’m not so sure about this one. The anti-mine faction has been around for one hell of a long time now. Remember Priness Di and the photo opportunities, with her appearing in the latest in chic anti-mine visors)? Then, as Observer implies, there has been a groundswell anti-mine movement ever since Vietnam. Is it all that fleeting a phenomenon? TD might very well be right about political baggage.

Phil
November 24, 2012 6:33 pm

When you say hell of a long time, I don’t think we agree on timescales. If we fight a “proper” war again they will come back into vogue very quickly indeed.

Mike W
November 24, 2012 6:44 pm

“When you say hell of a long time, I don’t think we agree on timescales.”

Soon after I posted the last comment, I thought that maybe you were thinking in broader sweeps of history than I was. Human beings tend to act, then react, then act etc. etc. over periods of time (sometimes long ones). Certainly a “proper” war would concentrate minds wonderfully over the real morality of mine warfare.

Observer
Observer
November 24, 2012 7:18 pm

Good point Phil. Another cavet, that there must be a major disaster in the war that would cause desperation to override humanitarian concerns, otherwise it would be “business as usual”.

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
November 24, 2012 11:48 pm

Perhaps some out of the box thinking:

http://www.g2mil.com/manfuse.htm

Obsvr
Obsvr
November 25, 2012 4:01 am

@Observer
“Which part? Training for us is around the Temburong area.

And I still can’t figure out how a UK minefield would surprise someone doing lane clearing. If you don’t mean clearence resistant mines, then what do you mean? That they plant the thing in depth? That’s not going to surprise anyone. Even if the law requiring you to mark out minefields was violated, no one clearing minefields is going to say: “Ok, that’s it boys, 100 meters, now stand up and walk!”

And Soviet tank regiments tend to use mineplows. They can simply afford to bulldoze as long as they want.”

If the cap fits wear it, anyone who seriously thinks waving machettes around is the military solution to jungle movement, then they are an inexperienced ignoramous of the first order. And if its being taught then the instructors are in urgent need of re-education – even the MoD should be able to get secaturs from Payless. The key to the jungle is keeping silent, be on the giving not the receiving end of surprise. Of course the SE Asian bird that makes the noise of wood chopping can cause a bit of excitement, but its not machette wielding morons but bunker builders cutting timber for their constructions.

I’ve never done any training in Borneo, operations only. For 10 months. Fortunately mines weren’t a problem until quite late in the war when Aust had some casualties in the 99 Bde area.

To repeat myself, Soviet doctrine had it that NATO minefields were 100 m deep. UK did it their own way, more like 1000m deep. Mineclearing tanks competed with the ZSUs as priority targets for direct fire (and ATGW) and needed to know when to start plowing. And barmines weren’t the only mines included, carefully positioned mines with tilt switches were also used.

Observer
Observer
November 25, 2012 4:41 am

Ops? That would make you ~65. No wonder you’re cranky.

Obsvr
Obsvr
November 26, 2012 7:03 am

I happily work full time, but like my father have a low tolerance for stupidity :-)