Explosive ordnance can come in many different forms and this is why explosive ordnance disposal also takes many different approaches. From basic, time-tested systems to the very latest in mechanical equipment to protect lives while doing the job, there are lots of ways to approach the task. Here are a few of the more well-known ones.
The metal detector
Using a simple metal detector to find a mine was an idea that was first used back in World War II. Polish officer Jozef Kosacki used a mine detector based on a metal detector to clear German mines from the fields during the Second Battle of El Alamein. The same approach was later used to find mines on beaches.
The biggest problem with this system is the number of false positives – experts say there are one thousand false positives for every actual mine discovered. And modern minimum metal mines can have less than one gram of metal in them, so they are extremely hard to find even with modern metal detectors depending on what depth mines need to be cleared to.
The minesweeper was a class of small naval warships that were specifically designed to sweep for mines in the water and make shipping lanes safe. The idea wasn’t a new one – the naval mine dates back to Ming Dynasty China while minesweepers were known in the Crimean War when the British used them. World War I saw the real advance of the minesweeper and many advancements were made in WWII. Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s research ship Calypso was once a Royal Navy mine sweeper J826.
Modern mine sweeping supplies for ships in this role include wood, fibreglass or non-ferrous metal in their construction. They are often degaussed to reduce the magnetic signature of the ship and are soundproofed to reduce the acoustic signature – these moves reduce the chance that the ship accidentally sets off the mine.
The mine roller is one area of demining that has continued to develop since WWI when it was first employed. Mine rollers were first used in World War I but were generally unreliable. Flails were introduced in World War II and had an improved success rate.
The modern mine roller, such as the Armtrac Roller, is a system that is greatly advanced over its predecessors. It protects vehicles from the effects of victim operated devices and also offers a high level of confidence when proving routes that may contain mines and IEDs. The full-width version uses seven rollers on two-wheel banks made with puncture proof polyurethane composition material.
The most modern development in mine removal and demining is the use of robots. The Armtrac 20T Robot is an example of an unmanned ground vehicle that is flexible and easy to control remotely to undertake the dangerous job of EOD reconnaissance and clearance. Known as UGVs (Unmanned Ground Vehicles) these robots can be fitted with a range of equipment including a demining flail, tiller and even a rear excavator to offer the widest range of ways to clear an area of unexploded ordnance.
Looking ahead, the world of demining continues to develop. One of the latest ideas to be trialled is the use of drones. Drones fitted with hyperspectral imaging technology are being trialled as a way to identify landmines without anyone being on the ground and therefore at risk. A test in 2015 used drones fitted with this kind of technology to find landmines buried since the 1990s in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Another Dutch project is also working toward the finding and detonating of landmines from a drone without the need for a person to be present.