521 Specialist Team Royal Engineers (STRE) Water Development are the Army’s well drilling specialists, now part of 62 Works Group RE, in turn, part of 170 Infrastructure Support Engineer Group, not to be confused with 506 Specialist Team Royal Engineers who look after water infrastructure (hope that was clear)
Their primary role is to provide a water exploration and drilling capability for deployed forces, water is such an essential commodity that even in these reduced times, the Army still maintains the capability.
When not deployed on operations they conduct training and military aid tasks. A good example of their work was in Sierra Leone in 2013 at the request of the International Military Advisory and Training Team (Sierra Leone) as part of their role to support the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces become more self-sufficient. The task objective was to install 11 water pumps and pipeline at RSLAF base locations to support over 6,500 personnel and their families.
Read more at Awoko, click here
They have also seen service in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan, a specialist capability in very high demand.
In Iraq, they carried out operations in Shaibah, drilling production boreholes that would be used by contractors operating the purification facilities. After two years of operation, the salinity levels rose to a point that made continuing operations inefficient, after geological advice from a UK based TA geologist determined that the location was located on a major sedimentary aquifer. 521 were redeployed and after carrying out a test programme the efficiency of extraction improved greatly. In Afghanistan, 521 were deployed in 2005 to support water development works.
As a tangential subject, water infrastructure development is equally as important for irrigation, flood control and longer-term geological surveys. The Royal Engineers work with a number of civilian and reserve personnel and organisations, 170 (Infrastructure Support) Engineer Group started Operation Tethys in Afghanistan in 2010 to improve irrigation and water supply in the Helmand Valley.
A good write up on Operation Tethys at the Geological Society, here
Based in Nottingham their equipment consists primarily of five Iveco Trakker truck mounted Dando Watertec 12.8‘s with a number of military modifications supplied under the C Vehicle PFI by ALC.
Officially called the Truck Mounted Well Driller (TMWD) they can drill a 300mm diameter borehole to a depth of 300m or deeper with a narrower borehole diameter and is A400 and C17 air portable, this being one of the major modifications to the off the shelf equipment.
From the ALC description;
The drilling system incorporates various, state of the art integrated units including a mud pump, water/foam pump, a Mosa Electrical Welder/Generator, CAT Hydraulic Power Pack. The drilling rig is also designed to work in conjunction with a drilling mud recycling system called a Mud Puppy, which is transported on a support vehicle
The Dando rigs have now replaced the three Edeco Truck Mounted Well Drills and three Edeco Truck Mounted Site Investigation Drills, the consolidation has delivered a reduction in spares holding, training and documentation.
So, all bloody cool stuff not many people have heard about!