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U.S. Army and Marine Corps Look to Enhance Mine Clearance Capabilities

U.S. Army and Marine Corps planners are exploring options to expand mine clearance capabilities for both mounted and dismounted forces. Representative examples of their efforts emerged in two recent government announcements.

The first potential enhancement, called the Mine Roller Enhancement Reduction and Clearance (MERC) system, reflects Marine Corps interest in convoy protection systems that will be “used to reduce the impact of electrically actuated Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) by neutralizing the IEDs before the crew compartment of the prime mover passes over the device.”

It is expected that the system will be mounted to the Marine Corps Generation III Mine Roller System (MRS) with additional system equipment mountable on either the MRS or vehicle prime mover.

The proposed IED “neutralization” is “intended to be accomplished prior to the crew compartment of the host prime mover passing over the device” and will be accomplished by one of three methods: initiating the premature firing train of IED threats; permanently disabling the firing train of the device; or inducing a temporary disabling of the firing train of the device, such that the device does not function as designed, but can be reset/reassembled by the physical intervention of an operator.

According to the announcement, the notional MERC system will be capable of neutralizing four specific types of threats:

  • Blasting-cap-initiated Victim Operated Improvised Explosive Devices (VOIED) threats, placed on the surface and subsurface;
  • Command Wire initiated IED threats, placed on the surface and subsurface;
  • Radio Frequency (RF) to Command Wire initiated IED threats, placed on the surface and subsurface; and
  • Passive Infra-Red (PIR) initiated blasting cap type threats, placed on the surface and subsurface off of the path of the prime mover.

Additional characteristics for the MERC system concept include a capability to operate and neutralize at speeds from 10 mph to 35 mph, no significant reduction to driver or crew visibility, system weight on MRS not to exceed 2,000 pounds, and system payload weight on the prime mover not to exceed 1,690 pounds.

 

Man Portable Line Charge RFI

At the opposite end of the weight spectrum, the U.S. Army’s Rapid Equipping Force has

APOBS in action in Afghanistan

U.S. soldiers with Charger Company, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division examine the area they just cleared with an Anti-Personnel Obstacle Breaching System in southern Howz-e Madad, Afghanistan, Jan. 12, 2011. U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Robert Thaler

just announced interest in obtaining technical and cost information from manufacturers regarding the availability of a Man Portable Line Charge (MPLC).

As described in the announcement, “Troops conducting dismounted operations need a man-portable system to counter trip-wire activated IEDs and mined antipersonnel obstacles. U.S. maneuvering elements conducting dismounted operations in some remote and hostile regions of Afghanistan are encountering mined antipersonnel obstacles.  These obstacles impede their ability to conduct tactical movement and covered infiltration on selected targets in urban or complex environments.”

One system currently used to defeat those threats is the Anti-Personnel Obstacle Breaching System (APOBS) Mk 7. Able to clear a safe footpath for troops from standoff positions, the original system includes two backpack assemblies, each weighing over 50 pounds.

“U.S. maneuvering elements conducting dismounted operations need a munitions system to counter trip-wire activated IEDs and mined antipersonnel obstacles that offers a more precise lightweight and compact design and that is easier to transport than the Mk7 Antipersonnel Obstacle Breaching System (APOBS) currently being used,” states the recent announcement, adding, “The ISAF ‘Rules of Engagement’ require the use of precision fires in the deliberate targeting process to minimize collateral concern and effects on non-combatant personnel, structures and property.”

As such, the notional MPLC is outlined as a lightweight, man-portable system, weighing less than 30 pounds, able to provide a clear lane of at least 25 meters in length, and provide the operator with a 100-foot standoff capability.

By

Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-10719">

    Simple technology, similar to what they had in WW2

    li class="comment byuser comment-author-chuck-oldham odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-10733">

    Ann,

    Some of it, yes. Mine rollers will be around as long as there are pressure plate mines. It’s the other technologies, to prematurely detonate IEDs through various mean before a vehicle gets into range, that get complicated.

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-61259">

    Looks like the APOBS the Army rolled out in about 2001 if I recall. I remember being trained on it.