Countermine / Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD)
Service members face the dangers of landmines and improvised explosive devices (IED) with every step and mile they travel in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, and the many other far off lands where the US deploys troops. Within the United States, there are over two thousand Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS) and Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) sites. Each requiring either inspection or clean up of UXOs ranging from small ordnance (40mm) to large bombs and projectiles (16in naval projectiles). Additionally, Military Services conduct testing and training on their land and sea ranges that further contribute to the unexploded ordnance [UXO] problem faced by DoD.
The use of landmines is a very old idea which goes back at least 2500 years to concealed spikes and stakes. The Romans under Julius Caesar used this concept successfully in their campaign against the Gauls. By the time of the American Civil War, technology had advanced to the point where explosive booby traps were used by the Confederates near Yorktown in May of 1862. Landmines were used as both anti-personnel and anti-tank weapons during the First World War. Military strategists began to consider the landmine as a weapon in its own right during the inter-war years. By World War II the Germans had become experts at mine warfare. They developed the most modern mines and mine-warfare techniques and their influence is significant. Throughout the 1950s landmines remained a weapon primarily targeted at soldiers and military targets.
It was the Vietcong who changed the landmine from its traditional role as a defensive weapon. The Vietnam War did not have a conventional front as in previous wars. It was a guerrilla war and the Vietcong used the landmine as an offensive weapon to attack and harass the enemy. Remote deliverance and random targeting of mines had become accepted military practice by the time the Soviets entered Afghanistan in 1979. Since that time landmines have been used in numerous conflicts by governments, rebels and non-state groups.
The US State Department estimates that there are between 80 and 110 million landmines in some 70 nations around the world today. The American Red Cross says that 26,000 deaths and injuries occur each year due to exploding landmines. One hundred forty-one countries have joined the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty which outlaws the use, production, transfer or stockpiling of antipersonnel mines. The United States has not signed the treaty, but has said that it will end the use of all anti-personnel landmines outside of Korea by 2003. The United States is searching for alternatives to mixed anti-tank systems and is developing alternatives to non-self destructing landmines.
Nothing is more important to a maneuver commander than the freedom to operate wherever he desires on the battlefield. To do this, countermine operations must initially focus on the Army's ability to detect minefields and mines, alerting the commander to their presence. The commander may determine to simply avoid or bypass these areas. These detection and reporting assets include dismounted, vehicle mounted and aerial systems.
If necessary to continue his mission, the commander may decide that he must breach the minefields or neutralize the mines. To do this requires a robust, survivable and redundant capability as these actions typically take place under both direct and indirect fire. It is a difficult challenge in an era of ever increasingly sophisticated mines, but one that must be successful as part of the overall mission. Once the minefields are breached, this information must be rapidly and accurately reported to all follow-on forces in order to speed their progress into the battle.
Clearance of larger areas to support military operations, such as logistics bases, airfields and hospitals, is also important in the larger scheme. This requires the ability to rapidly clear and mark areas in the scale of acres, not meters. This requires survivable clearance and marking equipment.
Experience in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Restore Hope in Somalia have revalidated the critical need to field effective Countermine equipment.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) / Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)
The Air Force operates several bombing ranges where pilots train by dropping lethal anti-armor / anti-personnel weapons. Periodically, EOD teams must clear debris, such as bomb fragments, from the range. Past methods required the teams to walk the area,manually cleaning the range. Air Force explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) personnel now use the system to perform a variety of range clearance and unexploded ordnance (UXO) tasks such as clearing sub-munitions using a surface clearance blade, and towing a trailer and remotely disconnecting it. When the United States transferred ownership of the Panama Canal back to the Panamanian government,the Air Force had to clear UXOs from ranges at Howard Air Base, which pilots used during the 1960s and 1970s. Ten-foot-tall jungle grass had overgrown the target area, and any surface UXO presented EOD personnel with a tremendous challenge. Clearing such ranges required personnel to burn the foliage, but jungle grass has the tendency to fold over and not burn thoroughly. In order to properly clear Howard AB using this method, personnel would have to saturate the area with a burning agent, and burn the foliage.
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